End debate

Actor Sanjay Dutt has done well to make it clear that he was not looking for clemency and would surrender before the authorities in time in accordance with the Supreme Court judgment.

Ever since the apex court sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case there has been a clamour in the country for him to be pardoned by the governor or the President. This has resulted in a major debate on the matter, orchestrated through TV channels and print and new media. Film and political personalities, government representatives and lofty opinion dispensers like Press Council chairman Markandey Katju have pleaded for mercy.  But none of the arguments advanced to give a special consideration for Sanjay Dutt bears scrutiny.

The campaign in favour of Sanjay Dutt has reflected a class bias which dominates the thinking and responses of the elite. He is the son of illustrious parents who have made important contributions to culture and society. He is himself a privileged person and is a popular icon. But this does not entitle  him to any special treatment. The charge against him has been proved beyond doubt by the highest court in the country.

It is no mean charge because he possessed illegal weapons and was found involved with the underworld. He has only been awarded the minimum punishment for the offence he committed. The argument that he has suffered enough for two decades is also not acceptable. There are many others who have undergone mental agony for longer periods when the judicial system took its time to arrive at a decision. The fact that he has a family is also no significant factor because there are countless others like him. There is also the case of another convict,  Zaibunissa Kazi, who also faced the same charge as Dutt and has been awarded the same punishment. Everybody is equal before the law and there is no reason for special treatment to anyone.

Sanjay Dutt has got a fair trial and in fact he even benefitted when the conspiracy charge against him was dropped. He still has legal avenues open to him like a review petition and perhaps even a curative petition. He can pursue these courses like any other ordinary citizen. It will send a wrong message if he is given special consideration and accorded pardon. As Dutt himself said, the debate should end now.

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