Justice Markandey Katju's letter to Maharashtra Governor on pardon for Sanjay Dutt

Justice Markandey Katju's letter to Maharashtra Governor on pardon for Sanjay Dutt
New Delhi:  Press Council of India chief Justice Markandey Katju has asked Maharashtra Governor K Sankarnarayanan to pardon actor Sanjay Dutt, whose conviction in an arms case related to the 1993 Bombay blasts was upheld by the Supreme Court today. Here is the letter sent by Justice Katju to the Governor:

An appeal to His Excellency, the Governor of Maharashtra, to pardon Sanjay Dutt under Article 161 of the Constitution

(Through the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Maharashtra)

Your Excellency,

The media has reported today that Sanjay Dutt has been awarded 5 years imprisonment by the Supreme Court. I appeal to you to pardon him under Article 161 of the Constitution for the following reasons:

(i) The Supreme Court, having found that Sanjay Dutt had in his possession a prohibited weapon without a licence, awarded him the minimum imprisonment which was prescribed under law. Section  25 (1(A) of the Arms Act states that if a person has in his possession a prohibited weapon without a licence he shall be awarded punishment of not less than 5 years imprisonment and not more than 10 years. Having found Sanjay Dutt in possession of a prohibited weapon, which is defined in Section 2 (1) (i) of the Arms Act as an automatic weapon which keeps firing until release of the pressure on the trigger, the Supreme Court awarded him 5 years imprisonment. However, there is power in the Court under Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 to release the person under these circumstances of the case on furnishing a bond.

(ii) The power of pardon under Article 161 by the Constitution is different from the judicial power. The Governor/President can grant pardon or reduce the sentence of the Court, even if a minimum is prescribed. Hence there is no doubt that the Governor can grant pardon/reduce the sentence. For example in the case of Commander Nanavati who was held guilty of murder, the Governor gave him pardon although the minimum sentence for murder is life sentence.

In the case of Sanjay Dutt, the Supreme Court has not found him guilty for the 1993 bomb blasts, but only found him guilty of having in his possession a prohibited weapon without licence. Surely, this is a lesser offence than murder. When the Governor of Maharashtra granted pardon to Nanavati, surely he can grant pardon to Sanjay.

No doubt Sanjay Dutt committed an offence by having a prohibited weapon without licence, but in my opinion there are extenuating circumstance:

a. The event happen in 1993 i.e. 20 years ago. During this period Sanjay suffered a lot, and had a cloud hovering over his head throughout. He had to undergo various tribulations and indignities during this period. He had to go to Court often, he had to take the permission of the Court for foreign shootings, he could not get bank loans, etc.  

b. Sanjay Dutt has already undergone 18 months in jail.

c. Sanjay Dutt has got married, and they have two small children.

d. He has not been held to be a terrorist, and had no hand in the bomb blasts.

e. His parents Sunil Dutt and Nargis worked for the good of society and the nation. Sunil Dutt and Nargis often went to border areas to give moral support to our brave jawans and did other social work for society.

f. Sanjay in this period of 20 years has through his film revived the memory of Mahatma Gandhi and the message of Gandhiji, the father of the nation.

In these circumstances I respectfully appeal to your Excellency to pardon Sanjay Dutt and set him free. I am reminded of the famous speech of Portia in Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice' that justice should be tempered with mercy.    

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