Why Sanjay Dutt should not be pardoned

Some claim that he has been suffering for 20 years and had only kept an assault rifle to protect his family. Some supporters say let bygones be bygones as he has a family to look after.

NEW DELHI: With each passing day, the clamour for clemency to Sanjay Dutt is growing louder as proponents of the 'pardon Sanjay' brigade feel that the Bollywood star made a mistake but he is innocent.

Some claim that he has been suffering for 20 years and had only kept an assault rifle to protect his family. Some supporters say let bygones be bygones as he has a family to look after.

All his well wishers seem to forget that the 1993 carnage in Mumbai resulted in the death of 257 people and injuries to 713.

For a man who reportedly took to drugs in high school, hobnobbed with India's most-wanted criminals and whose private life constantly made headlines, the fact that Dutt retains the sympathy of Bollywood filmmakers, politicians and millions of fans who see him as a victim of his star lineage and own fame comes as a surprise to many.

Here's a look at some of the facts of the case that point to why the star should not be forgiven:

Reason 1: It is well known that Sanjay Dutt was in touch with Anees Ibrahim, brother of Dawood Ibrahim, the main co-conspirators of the Mumbai blasts. Despite possessing three licensed weapons, Dutt procured AK-56 rifles for self protection.

M N Singh, Mumbai's Joint Commissioner of Police, who investigated the blasts, says: "The explanation doesn't cut any ice. One doesn't go running for help to gangsters for self-protection. There are government agencies to fall back on and in his case it was easy to get government help. As the son of Nargis and Sunil Dutt, a Congress MP, Sanjay could have asked the government for help. And here is the most troubling question: why did Dutt keep hand grenades? The 'self protection' argument can hardly be used to defend this act."

Reason 2: It is well known that Sanjay took possession of a huge cache of arms and ammunitions that was meant to be used against fellow Indians and he tried to cover it up, yet people are calling for his pardon.

Reason 3: Sanjay Dutt received the consignment of arms at his Pali Hill residence. It came hidden in the frame of a car. He provided the tools to retrieve the weapons and asked his guard to stand at a location from where the car was not visible. Then there were phone records to prove that he spoke to Anees Ibrahim. He himself confessed to this.

Reason 4: There were a few people - including Baba Mussa Chauhan and Magnum video owner Samir Hingora - who went to Dutt's house to deliver the consignment of arms. Similarly, there were others like Manzoor Ahmed, whose car was used to bring back the weapons from Dutt's residence, and an old woman (Zaibunissa Kazi), who kept the consignment in her house for a few days. Each of them - Chauhan, Hingora, Ahmed and Kazi - were convicted under TADA (Terrorists and Disruptive Activities Prevention Act).

Ironically, Dutt was sentenced under the Arms Act, which punishes people for illegal possession of arms. Dutt was lucky to have escaped being punished under a terror law and the TADA court judge went on to say that he (Dutt) was not a terrorist.

Reason 5: It is a fact that Sanjay's father Sunil Dutt approached Shiv Sena supreme Balasaheb Thackeray after failing to receive help from members of the political establishment, including the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Sharad Pawar.

Thackeray then announced that he knew Sunil and his late wife Nargis Dutt personally and did not believe that any member of the family could be "anti-national". The Dutts publicly thanked Thackeray, and Sunil desisted from contesting consecutive elections to keep a promise to him.

A purported account of what actually happened behind the scenes was provided by Sanjay's lawyer Satish Maneshinde in an interview to NDTV 24x7.

Maneshinde said that after the Sena-BJP came to power in Maharashtra in 1995, Thackeray got the government to set up a state-level board to review TADA cases. The board passed an order in Sanjay's favour, but the TADA court rejected it.

Thackeray then rang up the Congress Prime Minister, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and lobbied for Sanjay, Maneshinde recalled in the interview. He said he and Sanjay were at Thackeray's home when the Sena chief dialled Rao.

Rao promised to include Sanjay's case among those to be sent up before an upcoming central review committee for TADA cases.

The panel recommended bail for the actor. The TADA charges against him were dropped, freeing him from the blast conspiracy charge, and only the Arms Act case for possessing AK rifles remained.