Blog: What's in a name? Ask Zaibunissa Kazi and Manzoor Ahmed

Blog: What's in a name? Ask Zaibunissa Kazi and Manzoor Ahmed

(A file photo of the blasts in Bombay in March 1993)

So Amar Singh and Jaya Prada went to the Maharashtra Governor's office to ask him to pardon Sanjay Dutt. Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh has already said that he 'was of an impressionable age'. This impressionable age, for the record, was 33 years. Jaya Bachchan says he's suffered enough for 20 years. She too wants to go to the governor. Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee went public on her Facebook account saying Sanjay should be pardoned. Among the first to start the chorus was Press Council of India Chairman, Justice Markandey Katju.

The Dutt saga is well known. What many may not know is that Zaibunissa Kazi, a 70-year-old widow, was convicted under the now repealed TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities -Prevention). She was accused of keeping at her home the weapons that came from Sanjay Dutt's house: grenades, AK 56 rifles and ammunition. Her sentence too was upheld by the Supreme Court and she was given five years in jail. No Bollywood celebrity or politician is clamouring for a pardon for her.

Samir Hingora of Magnum was also convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison under TADA. He delivered the weapons to Sanjay Dutt's house.

What many wondered even in 2006-07, when the special court pronounced Ms Kazi guilty under TADA, was this: how could a person who received illegal weapons and a person who delivered them be guilty under TADA, a terror law, and not the person from whose house the weapons came?

Many years later, there are still no answers. But let's look at the questions. Ms Kazi kept the weapons at home, like Sanjay Dutt. Then how was she sentenced under a terror law and the actor under the illegal arms Act? Unlike Sanjay Dutt, Ms Kazi did not call underworld don Dawood's brother Anees Ibrahim to have weapons delivered to her house. Well-known underworld operative Abu Salmen did not deliver the weapons to her house. Again, unlike Sanjay Dutt, Ms Kazi did not have three licensed guns to her name. Yet, all this wasn't enough to get her either a lower sentence or an acquittal under TADA. She still has a little over a year left to serve her sentence of five years.

Manzoor Ahmed famously told investigators of the 1993 blasts, "main to sirf actor Sanjay Dutt ko dekhne gaya tha." He drove his Maruti 1000 to Sanjay Dutt's house along with Abu Salem. He got 10 years in jail under TADA. He did not appeal against his verdict, but the CBI did - to enhance his sentence.

Curiously, what should come most naturally to any investigating agency, especially one that calls itself the country's premier investigating agency - the CBI - was not done. The CBI did not appeal against the lower court's acquittal of Sanjay Dutt under TADA. So Manzoor Ahmed's offence deserved higher punishment, but Sanjay Dutt's acquittal did not merit so much as an appeal. We are still waiting for the CBI to answer that query, which naturally begs the question: does a certain convict's name or surname automatically guarantee him different treatment?

When asked why he didn't take up Ms Kazi's appeal to the Governor, Amar Singh said her family had not approached him. Mr. Singh, did Sanjay Dutt's family come to you with their request? Or did they go to Mamata Banerjee, Digvijaya Singh, Jaya Bachchan or Justice Katju?

It's easy to say he's suffered so many years, '20 years is almost a lifetime' they say. Well, so have others. The 1993 blasts case was never about a celebrity or a commoner, but it's equally true that Sanjay Dutt has been held guilty for illegal weapon possession in that very case: it's still the worst terror attack on the country. 257 people died. A hard fact even his 'well-wishers' cannot ignore.


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Story First Published: March 27, 2013 11:19 IST

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