Will Sanjay Dutt go to jail for possessing an AK-56?
Sanjay Dutt, a popular Bollywood star, was convicted for illegal possession of an AK-56 rifle and a 9mm pistol, and not for being part of a conspiracy in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blast case (250 killed and over 700 injured) for which he was originally charged. The court has extended his bail to February 6th. But he isn’t happy. He wants to go on parole…like forever stay out of jail for what he did. Which was to buy dangerous weapons from dangerous people. He could get 5-10 years in jail under the Arms Act, but he has appealed under section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act. This Act allows offenders to be released on a bond of assurance of good conduct for a period not less than three years.
Others want to be let out too: Unfortunately for Sanjay, as many as 69 accused under TADA (Prevention of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act) who were not as lucky as him, have filed applications to be let out from the TADA Act too. Ofcourse the courts cannot let these people go…but this will certainly make them think twice before letting Sanjay out on parole.
Sympathy and support: Sanjay has supporters though. None other than eminent citizens like film stars like Dilip Kumar, ex-Mumbai sheriff Nana Chudasama, social worker Yusuf Merchant and Vipul Kadri, director of NGO, Save The Children, India have vouched for his good conduct and character. They, like a lot of the public, feel that Sanjay’s one and a half years in prision earlier for this same offence is punishment enough.
The public also loves him. Poor little lost (rich) kid is how they see it. They want to let him go back to making films. After all, he didn’t bomb anybody. He didn’t kill anybody. He wanted a weapon for self-defence…that’s all. I confess feel a little like this myself even though I am not a Sanjay fan. I am not sure exactly why…but then feelings don’t always stand the test of rational thought.
Courts too seem sympathetic
Oddly, the court are not being seen as being harsh either. They have extended Sanjay’s bail to February 6th to allow him to complete his film commitments! However, they were sympathetic to Mubina Baya Bhiwandiwala and Zebunisa Kazi as well, who were both convicted for their complicity in the blast conspiracy. These two ladies who are mothers have been granted liberty until further orders.
Reality will force the courts to be harsh on Sanjay
Also, accused facing the same charges as Sanjay Dutt (possession of illegal weapons) Kersi Adejania and Rusi Mulla (both elderly citizens), have asked for the same relief as Sanjay. They don’t want to go to jail – they want parole. February 6th is to decide their fate as well. Clearly, the courts cannot make an exception just for Sanjay.
Why so much sympathy for Sanjay?
Everyone believes that Sanjay is not a criminal and morever – that his naughty days are over. That he regrets his dalliance with the law and wants to follow the straight and narrow path – which means get back to making money!
Vir Sanghvi puzzles over this public sympathy. He wonders why Salman Khan did not get any sympathy even though his crime (killing endangered species – black bucks) is far lighter. Sanghavi wrote this in 1998, much before Sanjay was freed of terrorism charges, But even then he admits:
In the circumstances, it was hard to see Sanjay as an international terrorist. It was easier to see him as a macho moron who had decided — when his family was threatened — that the best way to protect his sisters was to procure an assault rifle…
There was never much sympathy for actor Salman Khan (who has a playboy image). As Sanghavi writes:
His (Salman’s manner is perceived as arrogant and self-satisfied and the general view is that even if success has not gone to his head, it has certainly gone to his overmuscled biceps.
But the public is usually right…as this was borne out in 2002 when Salman was involved in a hit and run accident and now is suspected of spiriting away witnesses. There is no doubt in the mind of the public (except for Salman’s die-hard fans) that Salman has behaved badly, and is doing all he can to cover up his misdeeds.
It is unfortunate, but however ‘nice’ Sanjay Dutt is and however ‘right’ the public is in wanting to see him free, he will have to pay the price for possession of the rifle. As this DNA article explains:
Sanjay Dutt’s application seeking probation may be a long shot at evading prison, say lawyers. The provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, which provides that a convict can be let out on probation instead of serving time in prison, are applied only in rare cases, say legal experts.
Tough. And if by chance the judge is lenient and lets Sanjay off, it is likely that it will create a huge controversy. Just hope our Sanjaybaba realises that it is best to pay the price for one’s misdeeds. I always think of the guy who wrote Shantaram, the Australian Gregory Roberts. He went back to prison and served the sentence he deserved, even though he had reformed himself as a person. He may have lost critical years…but his conscience is clear. He more than paid for his deeds. It is quite impossible for courts to take a call on whether a person has really reformed or not…so the legal system cannot make exceptions.
However, if you ask me, I doubt that Sanjay will go to prison for five years. Even if the courts indict him now…ways and means will be found to get him off later. That’s the kind of ‘faith’ I have in our legal system! And in this case, I might even be glad.
(Sanjay Dutt’s photo sourced from Himalayan Times and Salman Khan’s from NewsKerala)
Related Reading: Jail for actor Sanjay Dutt.