Justice Katju seeks pardon for Sanjay Dutt

Asserting that he does not question the SC verdict, Katju said that the actor was not a terrorist.

NEW DELHI: Press Council of India chief Justice Markandey Katju has written to Maharashtra Governor K Sankarnarayanan seeking Sanjay Dutt's acquittal in an arms case related to the 1993 Mumbai blasts.

Reacting to the letter, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari today said there are various aspects to this issue, but added that the government will take his cognizance of his statement as 'Justice Katju has been a very eminent judge of the Supreme Court'.

"Whenever Justice Katju articulates a position on a certain issue, people both inside and outside government listen to it very seriously; but there are various aspects to this issue," Tewari said.

"And I am sure that those people within government, whether at the state government-level or at the level of various other instrumentalities of government who are seized with the responsibility of dealing with this issue would take that statement into cognisance and then if required formulate an appropriate response and come back to you," he added.

So just what did Justice Katju's write?

In the letter to the Maharashtra Governor, Justice Katju sought pardon for Dutt, who has been sentenced to five years in jail by the Supreme Court in an arms case related to the 1993 Bombay blasts.

Justice Katju, who sought pardon for Dutt under Article 161 of the Constitution, said the actor had not been found guilty of playing a role in the 1993 blasts and had suffered a lot.

He said the Supreme Court found that Sanjay Dutt had in his possession a prohibited weapon without a licence and awarded him the minimum imprisonment prescribed under law.

Justice Katju said the power of pardon under Article 161 of the Constitution is different from judicial power as the Governor or the President can grant pardon or reduce the sentence of the court even if a minimum punishment is prescribed.

"There is no doubt that the Governor can grant pardon or reduce the sentence. 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 term," he said.

Justice Katju said 'surely, this is a lesser offence than murder. When the Governor of Maharashtra granted pardon to Nanavati, surely he can grant pardon to Sanjay Dutt'.

He said that although Dutt had committed an offence, there are extenuating circumstances, such as that the event happened 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," Justice Katju said.

The Press Council chief said Dutt had already spent 18 months in jail, had married and has two children.

"He has not been held to be a terrorist and had no hand in the bomb blasts. 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 the society," he said.

Justice Katju added that Dutt, in the period of 20 years since the blasts, has through his films revived the memory of Mahatma Gandhi and his message, an apparent reference to 'Gandhigiri' in the film Lage Raho Munna Bhai.