Justice Katju also gave an example of Commander Nanavati who was held guilty of murder, but the Governor pardoned him although the minimum sentence for murder is life sentence.
Section 25 (1)(A) of the Arms Act, under which Dutt has been sentenced, 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 five 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,” said Katju in his letter.
But Justice Katju has received very little support so far. However, voices against his demand have started pouring in on social media, which is also evident from the latest post by Justice Katju on his Facebook in which he tried to clarify his stand.
“I have read the views of those criticizing me for appealing to the Governor of Maharashtra to pardon Sanjay Dutt under Article 161 of the Constitution. While I respect the right of every one to hold his view, I have this to say in response (1) I have never sought popularity, and I have often expressed views which I knew would make me very unpopular. I regard populism as a form of vulgarity, and will say what my conscience tells me,” Katju wrote on his Facebook.
So far Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party, some leaders from within the Congress and Bollywood celebrities have shown open support to Katju’s demand. However, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam has strongly criticized Katju's demand and said that pardoning Sanjay Dutt will not be a right step, in the wake of the crime he had committed. "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?” Nikam told CNN-IBN.
The journalists' fraternity have also opposed Katju's stand on Sanjay Dutt. Sanjeev Kumar, business journalist with a leading magazine on business affairs disapproves Katju's demand. Speaking to this citizen journalist , he said,“I do not completely agree with Mr. Katju, because it gives a wrong signal to the society at large. There is some soft corner for Sanjay Dutt as he is a public figure and a great entertainer who criticizes those trends which are anti-society through his films.”
Shabana, a journalist with Twitter handle @shabanais tweeted, “For once I don’t agree with Justice Katju on mercy for Sanjay Dutt. What is wrong is wrong. Having kids and a family or having a good parent doesn't make Sanjay Dutt less guilty. Weak argument by Katju.”
Nilanjana, South Asia Correspondent for a foreign publication, tweeted, “Hearing some truly bizarre defenses for #SanjayDutt. Who says small fishes should go unpunished just because the big fishes r still at large?”
Kabir Taneja, using the handle @KabirTaneja wrote, “It is absolutely stupid that channels are covering Katju's letter...beyond stupid, even.”
Sanjay Dutt has been given four weeks by the Supreme Court to surrender and face the imprisonment. During this time, Dutt can file a review petition in the apex court if he wants to. In case his review petition is rejected, he can go ahead with a curative petition.
In the curative petition, the lawyer will need to present a new fact related to the case not presented before the court earlier. Reaching out to the Maharashtra Governor will be the last option available to Dutt. Governor's pardon depends upon the recommendation of the state government.
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