Katju appeals President to pardon Dutt, Zaibunissa

Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju on Thursday sent a written appeal to President of India seeking pardon for the Bollywood star.

New Delhi: Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman Justice Markandey Katju on Thursday wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee and made an appeal to pardon actor Sanjay Dutt and 1993 Mumbai blasts case convict Zaibunnisa.

In identical letters to Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Katju said that even though Dutt has not requested for his pardon, he is entitled to make such an appeal.

"I therefore appeal to you to pardon Sanjay Dutt under Article 72 of the Constitution (President`s power to grant pardon). I mention that Article 72 does not state who should send the appeal. Hence even if Sanjay Dutt has not sent an appeal I am entitled to send such an appeal," he said.

Katju cited several reasons for granting pardon to Dutt.

"He (Dutt) has already undergone 18 months imprisonment. After his release on bail after undergoing 18 months imprisonment it took him five or six years to restore his damaged career. During this five or six years he was often ostracised by people as he had the brand of a terrorist on himself," he wrote.

The PCI Chairman also sought pardon for Zaibunnisa Anwar Kazi`s five-year imprisonment by the apex court in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.

"She is an old widow of 70 years of age. She has been operated for a tumour in her kidney and she has to go for regular check-ups. Her legs have developed swelling so she has to be kept on a salt less diet. She can hardly walk or talk. I do not think that in her frail health she will survive five years in jail," he said.

Katju noted that she has already spent nine months in the jail, adding, "Even on the merits of her case, I am of the opinion that she deserves pardon."

Dutt, 53, was ordered by the Supreme Court on March 21 to return to jail to complete a five-year sentence.

The Apex Court had upheld the death sentence of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, a key conspirator with Dawood Ibrahim in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, and ordered that Dutt return to jail to serve three-and-a-half years sentence for possessing illegal arms.

Dutt did not get film offers as producers thought that the film may remain incomplete if he is sent to jail midway. He could not get bank loans and he had to take permission of the court for foreign shooting every time he wanted to go abroad, Katju said.

"He had to undergo various other tribulations and indignities during this 20 year period," he wrote, adding that Dutt has got married in this while and has two small children.

The PCI Chairman also noted that the actor was involved in social work during the last 20 years.

"During this 20 years period when the case was going on there is no allegation that he did anything wrong, rather he did good social work. Considering all these factors I am of the definite opinion that Sanjay Dutt should be granted pardon," he said.

Katju also mentioned that though Dutt has not stayed in prison, he has suffered substantially in his life.

"He may not have remained in prison for five years but he has undergone sufferings which is substantially equivalent to that," he said.

Referring to the Court decisions, Katju wrote, "The Supreme Court has held that Sanjay Dutt was not involved in the 1993 bomb blasts, and he is not a terrorist. The only charge on which Sanjay Dutt has been found guilty is the charge of having in his possession a prohibited weapon."

On Dutt`s celebrity status, he said, "In my opinion Sanjay should not be granted pardon merely because he is a celebrity. At the same time he should not put to disadvantage merely because he is a celebrity. If he deserves pardon, he should not be denied it just because he is celebrity."