New Delhi: A day after Sanjay Dutt was awarded a jail term of five years in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case by the Supreme Court, the clamour for his sentence to be commuted has grown louder even as others have said that his conviction has been upheld by the highest court of the country and there should be no leniency towards him. Chairman of Press Council of India Justice Markandey Katju said Dutt should be pardoned and that he will meet the Maharashtra Chief Minister on the issue. Speaking to CNN-IBN, Justice Katju said, "I am not questioning the Supreme Court verdict. I have sent an appeal to the Governor requesting him to pardon Sanjay Dutt and I have said this on humanitarian reasons."
Dutt has also found support in others too including several political leaders. Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan said that she will appeal to have Dutt's sentence commuted while another party leader Naresh Agarwal said that the government should commute his sentence.
SP leader Ramgopal Yadav said, "Here no arms were recovered. Sanjay Dutt is in this position because of his lawyer. He should not have been convicted. There is no evidence. The punishment given is too harsh."
Katju's views were also supported by the NCP, a UPA constituent. NCP leader DP Tripathi said, "Even the Supreme Court found Sanjay Dutt not guilty of terrorist activities. I feel that the Maharashtra government should pardon Dutt and give him a reprieve. Justice Markanday Katju is right in his demand."
Several Union ministers also backed the idea of commuting Dutt's prison term. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla said that his sympathy is with Dutt and his family. "He has already suffered a lot but ultimately this decision can only be made by the judiciary," said Shukla.
Union Minister Manish Tewari said, "I'm sure that those people within the government who are seized with the responsibility, would take that statement into cognizance and formulate an appropriate response and get back to you."
However, voices against showing any leniency to the convicted criminal are also growing. BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi and Janata Party supremo Subramanian Swamy are against pardoning Dutt in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.
"I'm surprised at the people who are making these comments because pardon happens in those cases where the punishment is death sentence. And in a case where the person has been caught with arms has been found to be guilty of such a terror attack, I think it is high time. Only one person has been given death penalty and I think a little more stiffer stand on this is required," said Lekhi.
Subramanian Swamy said Dutt shouldn't be treated differently and that he will challenge anyone who seeks a pardon for Dutt. "I will challenge the court if they try to rethink over the issue. Even he is not saying that he have got an unfair judgment. The person who gave the judgment he is soon going to be the Chief Justice of India. Then how can someone say he is not eminent enough to decide."
Senior lawyer and MP Ram Jethmalani, too, is against any leniency towards Dutt. "Actually, Dutt has been treated very lightly by the other court. That he was let off on a very serious charge. That is his great achievement," said Jethmalani.
The film fraternity has also come out in force and have been claiming that Dutt has already suffered too much and thus should be let off. Jaya Bachchan and Cheeranjivi have said that they will personally appeal to the Governor for Dutt. "What the Supreme Court has given is the final verdict. But as a friend of Sanjay Dutt he should get the mercy. If he gets the mercy, I will be the happiest person. I wish him all the best," said Chiranjeevi.
However, Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam does not share the view. He said, "Do you think it is right for someone accused in a case for illegal possession of arms to ask for pardon? Is it acceptable to ask for pardon for such a conviction?"
The immediate course available for Dutt is to file a review petition in the Supreme Court within four weeks. If the review petition is dismissed or rejected by the court, a curative petition can also be filed. In a curative petition the lawyer will need to present a new fact related to the case not presented before the court earlier. The last option before Dutt will be of reaching out to the Maharashtra Governor who could remit his sentence. But that would depend on the recommendation of the State government.
The apex court found the actor guilty of acquiring illegal weapons from those blamed for the bombings in Mumbai that killed 257 people and was given four weeks to surrender.