Conviction of Sanjay Dutt The Naked Truth
Film actor Sanjay Dutt won a small victory in the Supreme Court, when the Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 1993 bomb blast case, but reduced the punishment of six years, awarded in 2006, by the designated TADA Court to five years in March 2013.
The apex court also held: “We are in agreement with conclusion arrived at by the designated TADA court that had rejected the arguments of the appellant Sanjay Dutt.” “We are of the view that the trial court adopted the correct procedure and the decision arrived at by it was correct.” It directed Dutt to surrender within four weeks from the date of judgment.
As he had already spent 18 months in jail, his actual punishment will be of the duration of three and half years. However, the Supreme Court ruled out his release on probation, because the “nature” of his offence was “serious”. Sanjay Dutt was convicted by the TADA court for illegal possession of a 9 mm pistol and an AK-56 rifle which was part of the consignment of weapons and explosives brought to India for the coordinated serial blasts that killed 257 people and injured over 700. These blasts were reportedly organised by the underworld Don Dawood and others with the association of ISI of Pakistan. It will be worthwhile to recall some of the details of the 1993 bomb blasts, to which the curtain has been finally drawn after 20 years by the Supreme Court.
The 1993 Mumbai bombings were a series of 13 bomb explosions that took place in Mumbai on March 12, 1993. The attacks were the most destructive and coordinated bomb explosions in the country’s history. The attacks are widely believed to be the retaliation by the underworld for Babri mosque demolition in December 1992.
In December 1992 and January 1993 there was widespread rioting in Mumbai between the minority and majority communities following the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya. Between January 1 and 5, the city witnessed a series of riots in which 1,788 (official figures) people lost their lives.
At 1:30 p.m. in March 1993, a powerful car bomb exploded in the basement of the Bombay Stock Exchange building. The 28-story office building housing the exchange was severely damaged, and many nearby office buildings also suffered some devastation. About 50 people were killed by this explosion. About 30 minutes later, another car bomb exploded elsewhere in the city, and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:40 p.m. a total of 13 bombs exploded throughout Bombay, now called Mumbai. Most of the bombs were car bombs, but some were kept in scooters.
Three hotels—Hotel Sea Rock, Hotel Juhu Centaur, and Hotel Airport Centaur—were targeted by suitcase bombs left in rooms booked by the perpetrators. Banks, the regional passport office, hotels, an airline office (the Air India Building) and a major shopping complex were also hit. Bombs exploded at Zaveri Bazar, Century Bazar, Katha Bazar, Shiv Sena Bhawan and Plaza Theatre. A jeep-bomb at the Century Bazar exploded early, thwarting another attack. Grenades were also thrown at Sahara International Airport and at Fishermen’s Colony, apparently targeting the Hindus. A double-decker bus was very badly damaged in one of the explosions and that single incident accounted for the greatest loss of life— perhaps up to ninety people were killed.
The official number of dead was 257 with 1,400 others injured (some news sources say 317 people died; this was due to a bomb which killed 60 in Calcutta on March 17). Several days later, unexploded car bombs were discovered at a railway station. Islamic terrorist groups based in Pakistan were suspected to be responsible for these bombings, and the evidence uncovered, pointed to the involvement of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and ISI of Pakistan. Many hundreds of people, allegedly involved were arrested, detained and later on prosecuted.
Bollywood industry has made the right platitudinous noises and comments not on the quantum of punishment, but on Sanjay Dutt as a good human being, a good and a helpful actor. A former Judge of the Supreme Court, now a Chairman of the Press Council of India, has pleaded for the overturning of the Supreme Court judgement, under the guise of a pardon by the Governor of the State of Maharashtra, under Article 161. He pleads that the offence was committed 20 years back and apart from other things, he had to go to the court often. He also states that his parents also did a lot of good work for society and the nation. But this is the condition of all accused and witnesses, who are languishing in jails, as the governments are unwilling to spend any worthwhile sum for improving the criminal justice system.
SANJAY DUTT’S MERCY?
By Vijay Khaira
Born from Hindu father and Muslim mother, Sanjay Dutt claimed that he was under threats from the fundamentalists after the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 and his plea was not rejected by the apex court. Dutt was booked under TADA and the arms act by the Mumbai police in 1993 that’s about 20 years ago. He was acquitted by the TADA court but was sentenced for six years under the arms act for possessing the prohibited weapon AK 56 rifle. His term from six years to five years has been reduced by the apex court.
The reduction in his punishment by the apex court indicates its mindset. It spelled without mentioning that Dutt deserved the least possible punishment as per the law. The hands of the court were tight for not being able to reduce his punishment further after the acceptance of the violation of the arms act by Sanjay Dutt.
The Article 72 of the Constitution permits the President and Article 161 permits the Governor to acquit an accused or to reduce the punishment. Even a state government under Article 432 of CrPC has the similar powers. If his mercy appeal is accepted by the President or the Governor, it would definitely be in accordance with the law.
The debate on Dutt’s case has become a hot issue and gained national importance due to the jumping of great legal luminaries like Mr Katju, a former justice of Supreme Court and eminent politicians like Digvijay Singh of Congress and Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal, who have given the statements in his favour, though some leaders like Balbir Punj of BJP and few other lawyers have expressed the adverse view.
The important questions on which his mercy appeal could be considered are:
- i) Was Dutt booked for any crime before March 12, 1993?
- ii) Has he ever been blacklisted by the police?
iii) Has he been involved in crime after 1993 till date?
- iv) Has he ever misused his arm?
- v) Has he ever threatened anyone with his weapon?
- vi) Has he even mildly exhibited the weapon in public?
vii) Has he been uncooperative with the police?
viii) Has any relationship with criminals been established conclusively?
If the answers of all above questions are in negative, then this could be a fit case for mercy
His father the late Sunil Dutt, a seasoned politician, was also a great social worker and had gone to the borders to entertain and to encourage the Indian soldiers fighting against Pakistan during wars by endangering his life. His mother the late Nargis Dutt, an awardee of Padmashree, became a legend of Indian cinema after the release of movie Mother India in fifties, wherein she played the role of mother India.
Sanjay Dutt himself became a symbol of Gandhigiri because of his roll as Munnabhai in the film Lage Raho Munna Bhai. This film has set the trend of offering the flowers to the enemies and created the awareness of Gandhism in the country. However, he doesn’t deserve mercy on account of his being the son of a politician or a famous personality of Bollywood or un-deserve mercy just because of opposition by some people.
There have been many occasions, when even the hardcore criminals have been granted the mercy and acquitted. The case of Phoolan Devi, a well-known dacoit, is a shining example when the government led by Mulayam Singh withdrew the cases against her. The government led by Arjun Singh in Madhya Pradesh got many dacoits surrendered, who were allowed to live a peaceful life after the reduction in their punishment.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave started a campaign for surrender of dacoits and succeeded to a large extent in the Bundelkhand region of UP and MP. This used to be a highly operational area of dacoits. These dacoits, who surrendered on the call of Vinoba Bhave, were granted mercy and allowed to live a normal life.
Dutt may not be allowed to bask in his parents’ glory but the work done by his parents and the low gravity of his crime cannot be ignored. Nobody could be allowed to take the law in the hands, whether he is son of a great father, or a rich man. Still the Constitution has the provisions of granting mercy but these provisions have to be used very sparingly and discreetly in the most deserving cases after taking all the factors into consideration. A mercy appeal should be accepted in deserving cases, otherwise there was no need for the inclusion of these articles and provisions by the framers of the Indian Constitution.
It is often overlooked that Sanjay Dutt got the illegal weapons from the consignment which led to the riots and destruction of Bombay in 1993. If only he had cross-checked the sources of weapons and informed the police, this tragedy would not have happened. It is not simply a question of possessing illegal weapons, but also a grave act of omission to inform the police.
The former Judge is aware of the fact that any good conduct is irrelevant in criminal cases. If he is to be pardoned, so should be Dawood Ibrahim and others, who have not renounced Indian citizenship. He can also claim that he has not committed any crime against India, since 1993. At least there is no evidence available.
Why only Sanjay Dutt, why should not all the accused be pardoned on the same ground, as their parents might not have done any social service, but have been peaceful citizens, if the logic of Chairman Press Council is accepted?
A former Chief Justice of India spoke for the victims of crime recently in a newspaper column by saying: “And indifference to the rights of the victims is fast eroding the faith of society and victims in the criminal justice system. According to our laws, gaps or faults in the investigation will benefit the accused. This is because the rights of the accused take precedence over the rights of the victims. It humiliates and frustrates victims, when the offender goes unpunished or is let off with a minor punishment.” The former Chief Justice quoted the case of Bheru Singh vs. State of Rajasthan, where the Supreme Court observed: “The object of sentencing should be to see that the crime does not go unpunished and the victim of the crime as also the society have the satisfaction that justice has been done.”
The trouble is that human memory is short. There are certain sets of laws, which every citizen is required to follow. Ignorance of laws is not accepted as a legal defence in India, as well as anywhere in the world. The plea of being good in any profession is a dangerous proposition, as it is not possible to quantify or make distinction, whether the infringement of any law can be an acceptable proposition. If good professionalism in all walks of life were to be accepted as an extenuating proposition, then it would not be possible to make a differentiation between a superb thief, a pickpocket, a murderer, a rash and negligent driver, a tailor, a shopkeeper, an industrialist, a dancer, a singer, a writer, and a tax-evader. Martin Luther King, Jr. once rightly said: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” It is rather overdue that we paid attention to the above.
By Joginder Singh
(The writer is former Director, CBI)