If Munnabhai is pardoned, is Chulbul Pandey next?

VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: After two decades, it is said that justice has been served in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case.

No, it hasn’t. What we have got is just a good balm.

Justice will never be served until Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon are caught and sentenced; like what the Americans did with Osama Bin Laden who was also hiding in Pakistan like Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon. But unfortunately, no one is really interested to know how our authorities plan to bring to book these “India’s most wanted.”

We wonder if there is even a plan at all. Instead, our Parliamentarians are busy trying to get a pardon for Sanjay Dutt.

Yes, it is indeed heartbreaking to see a now mellow-fellow Sanjay Dutt, father of two young children and also an older girl, go to prison. It is clear that he was not involved in any terrorist activities. But he has been booked for illegal possession of weapons under the Arms Act.

However, the fact remains that he committed an illegal act knowingly; and there is a law for punishing such offences and he has been sentenced for it. The law has taken its course. But, Dutt sympathisers must think, had Sanjay Dutt informed the Police about his “friends” smuggling arms, maybe today 257 of his countrymen would be alive?

But we want to know, why are our Parliamentarians going overboard in seeking a pardon for him?

Asking for early parole is one thing but complete pardon!? Former MP Jayaprada declared, “he is innocent!” Jaya Bachchan said, “Where was the government all these years? Suddenly you have realised he has to go to jail? This is rubbish…”

Yes! Our own lawmakers think that our judiciary and laws are rubbish.

Does that mean that Jaya Bachchan’s Samajwadi Party colleague and minister Raja Bhaiyya, if his case goes on long enough and is finally held guilty, must he be pardoned because “suddenly the judiciary realised he has to go to jail!”

Yes, indeed today, we feel for Sanjay Dutt.

We have softened as we think of him as the jhappi-giving Munna Bhai. No wonder, the first official support petition was put forth by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Markandey Katju.

But interestingly, the former Justice repeatedly said in his many interviews on TV channels that he does not watch movies and added, “I have not watched a movie in 40 years!”

Yet the former Justice wrote in his petition for pardon that Sanjay Dutt had “revived the memory of Mahatma Gandhi through his films”! and we believed Justice Katju when he said he had not watched a film in 40 years!

Also, we assure our former Justice that Sanjay Dutt didn’t do Munna Bhai for free so he could propagate Gandhiism.

He got paid for it.

Katju further stated that Sanjay Dutt had “suffered a lot and had to undergo various tribulations and indignities.”

Yes, we are sure he did. But isn’t that one of the objectives of punishment?

Justice Katju, justifying the tribulations suffered by Dutt, added: “He (Sanjay Dutt) 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.”

How can visiting courts often, taking permission to go abroad for shooting, inability to get bank loans and propagating Gandhiism through a movie written by someone else, produced by someone else while getting paid for acting in it be a justification to be pardoned on moral and legal grounds!?

Yes, Sanjay Dutt did go to jail for 18 months. But then he has also lived a happy life, he made movies, made money and made babies.

Now, if we remember rightly, wasn’t it the same Justice Katju who said that 90% of Indians are idiots…?

So now, many idiots would ask, that while the former Justice surely is not an idiot like us, has he not become a sentimental fool?

Going by Katju’s logic, can the former Justice also write a letter asking pardon for thousands of criminals who have committed petty offences which are bailable but are languishing in jail because they are too poor to pay for the bail amount?

Maybe Salman Khan can help. After all, it was his NGO last year which paid Rs 40 lakh for the release of 400 prisoners who had committed petty offences and were too poor to pay bail money in UP.

According to a 2011 report, nearly 70% of the total 3,00,000 inmates in India’s 1,356 prisons have not been convicted of any offence. They are undertrials. Of them, nearly 2,000 have spent more than five years behind bars without being convicted of any crime.

Will the people asking for Sanjay Dutt’s pardon, help these people?

While the Parliamentarians are asking for pardon for Sanjay, maybe they can mull over the Right to Justice Bill… if they know what it is.

In 1982-83, the All India Jail Reforms Committee had called for quick trials and simplification of bail procedures.

In 2011, it was the same M. Veerappa Moily who, as Law Minister, said, “the government is planning to introduce a Right to Justice Bill, whose highlight will be a time-bound justice delivery system”.

Nothing has happened.

Maybe Jayaprada and Jaya Bachchan can take it up? That way, next time they won’t have to be “startled” by judiciary’s sudden need to send Sanju baba to jail.

Also, if people should be pardoned without even completing 20% of their punishment, then why don’t the former Justice and the Parliamentarians rework the Indian Penal Code and say that possession of illegal arms will be punishable by just 18 months in prison, the one served already by Sanjay Dutt?

Why keep a form of punishment if you are not going to use it or if you can pressure a pardon out.

At this rate, Salman Khan may be getting his Public Relations machinery in gear. Carefully choosing powerful sympathisers and pardon-petitioners, keeping them ready, in case he gets sentenced.

After all, he has been charged with culpable homicide for driving over a man and killing him. The case has been going on for 10 years now. He is also charged in the Black Buck shooting case where he was sentenced to five years, for which he served three days in prison.

So, are we to expect that if the court sentences Salman to prison for five years for killing a black buck and a human being, we must pardon him for he has an NGO like “Being Human”?

Must we pardon him for paying for the release of 400 poor prisoners? and because he is our beloved Chulbul Pandey?

Yes. Emotional it is. But rational we must be.

As the saying goes, “You do the crime, you do the time.”

Sanjay Dutt has committed a crime and he has to do the time. At best, he can get an early parole for good behaviour and come out and continue his Gandhian work.

We don’t live in the movies where emotions rule. We live in a real world and in a real world it is the rule of law that keeps some semblance of civility.

Yes indeed, there is the theory of repentance and reformation.

Yes indeed, there is a need to see the spirit of the law, not just the word.

If that is the case, let us see the spirit of the law applied to all the petty cases — from the poor pickpocket to the sex-worker. After all, Sanjay Dutt did it to be a Macho Man. These people do it because they are human and they have to eat to live.

(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of Star of Mysore, where this column originally appeared)