Saturday 30 March 2013


Why Pardon Sanjay Dutt?
Kabir Bedi

“Sentencing Sanjay Dutt for illegal arms may be just, but charging him in 1993 blasts case, as if conspirator, was unjust.” I tweeted this on March 22nd, two days after Sanjay Dutt had been sentenced to 5 years rigorous imprisonment by the Supreme Court. After all, he was unquestionably guilty of possessing illegal arms, and the court had given him the minimum sentence mandated by law. So the verdict was just.

But that’s not the whole story. For 20 years of his life Sanjay Dutt lived with the fear of being convicted, as a leading paper put it -- even after the verdict -- “for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts that killed 257 people”. Guilt by association has been the widespread perception among people who don’t dwell on the fine print. Let’s be clear on two facts: Sanjay was acquitted of any role in the murderous conspiracy that savaged Mumbai. He was only found guilty of possessing arms illegally. True, he had been befriended by notorious gangsters long before that, who also sent him the arms he’d asked for. Sadly, that was deemed enough to include him in the Blasts Case against terrorists. So he lived with the stigma of presumed guilt, for two long decades, for a horrendous carnage he never committed. One can only imagine what he must have suffered while being tried alongside traitors to the nation

Is that reason enough to pardon Sanjay Dutt? There are those who say that the matter ends with the Supreme Court’s judgement of guilt, that he should do his time like everyone else, and, even more pointedly, being a celebrity doesn’t merit any favours. The law must be the same for all, followed to the letter. By the same token, say his supporters, the law also allows for convicts being pardoned on appeal. No precedent would be set, enough pardons exist on record for deserving cases. So the real question is whether Sanjay Dutt deserves to be pardoned, or not. Even if he says he won’t ask for a pardon, others can still appeal to the  Governor or the President to do so.

When considering a pardon, the State is bound to look at the wider picture. Not just the crime itself, but why it was committed. Not just the case, but the circumstances surrounding it. Not just the verdict, but whether justice is best served by enforcing it. All of which raise important questions.

Why did Sanjay Dutt amass illegal arms? His defence is that wide-spread riots and deaths had recently occurred in Mumbai, and if attacked his family would have been defenceless without armed protection. A judge may not excuse that in court, bound by the letter of the law, but on appeal the State can consider all extenuating circumstances. Even among those who dismiss Sanjay’s argument of self-defence, only the most fanatical would believe that he planned to go on a shooting spree against the citizens of the city he has loved since childhood. Though he broke the law, say his supporters, there was clearly no evil intent. Laws are made for the protection of society. If a man’s illegal act did not endanger anyone, that should be a mitigating factor.

What is the purpose of justice? The letter of the law cannot be greater than it’s purpose: punishment, repentance and reformation. As constitutional expert Rajeev Dhavan says “We know only punish and don’t punish. We do nothing to reform prisoners, or take note of those already reformed.” Sanjay’s supporters say he has been punished enough. He’s already spent 18 months in jail. His career was ruined for over 5 years after his release. More importantly, 20 years of humiliation, under false charges of conspiracy, was a terrible punishment too. Imprisoning him for another three and a half years would be overkill. Even the judge had accepted his defence, but had to give him the minimum sentence mandated by law. Only the State can pardon him, as it has done in many deserving cases.

Sanjay Dutt is a good guy who made a stupid mistake. He’s contributed  lot to society, and he’s suffered greatly. And, let’s not forget, he committed  a victimless crime.

On the balance, there are enough reasons to pardon him. What kind of pardon could Sanjay Dutt be given? Which would be the best option: 1) outright forgiveness of his remaining sentence, 2) a partial remission, 3) a fair period of meaningful community service for the good of society? The last option, in my view, would more than meet the needs of justice.

Kabir Bedi is an international actor, commentator, columnist, and India's leading presenter of events. Twitter: @iKabirBedi



  1. Such a fair and comprehensive argument!

  2. with gr8 respect will it not set a wrong precedence Mr. Bedi...hope u also refer n understand with d same vigor the circumstances with which rajiv gandhis convicts r jailed for more than 23 yrs for no wrong they hve committed. with due respect to u all these sounds to be a manufactured consent to justify a non justifiable a issue

  3. Mr. Bedi... a good argument indeed but read this Indian Express Article to look at another perspective.

  4. With al due respect Mr. Bedi, but all you are writing here is according to me is a complete 'emotional gibberis.

    What was the age of Sanjay Dutt when he had those sphisticated arms which our normal police dont have 12-14-18-25...??? 33 if m slightly correct.... And to answer your 'Concern' over his so called 'suffering' over the past two decades, i'd mlike to say had it not been Mr. Dutt and had it been any other normal - 'Aam aadmi' with those heavy charges do u actually feel that he'd be out on a bail for such a long time to to actually live a 'suffered' life of a star, getting married, having kids....??? Answer is NO.....!!!

    And the humiliation which you have mentioned here is just a farce as you yourself has never considered him as a criminal. May be because having AK -47 for 'self defence' is a pretty normal act in the society where you belong. But in a real Indian society we literally could land up in Jail for an indefinite period of time for possessing a 'Desi Katta'...!!!

    You say that his careere has ended for 5 years, i say he was lucky enough to atleast get a chance to start it all over again. Normally people dont even have a 'Life' commiting a crime like this.

    Though it is immaterial to mention coz u r hell bound on making him a hero out of his conviction and making a mockery of the judicial system. I do love him as an actor but for the crime he committed and what possibly could have averted that henious blast he should be punished and ask for penance. That was not a juvenile act what he did and he should not be treated like one.

  5. You first reason is "What was the age of Sanjay Dutt "
    Kabir Bedi’s article does not talk about Sanjay Dutt's age and does not reason Sanjay Dutt's age as a fact to pardon him. If Sanjay Dutt was 33, than your politicians who are way over 33 should not be making ANY mistakes. There should be a law stating that
    “ no one above 33 years should commit a crime. If anything , that person should be ruined for the whole life “

    Instead of challenging the reasons in the article you have started with "emotional gibberis", reflecting your emotions; Jealousy and Hate.

    1. Bedi's article is absolutely " emotional gibberis". Check my comments on this issue which Bedi has conveniently ignored.

  6. I don’t agree AT ALL with this article by Kabir Bedi. On the cover, Bedi appears to sound very impartial and logical, but as expected, in a bid to mitigate the gravity of Sanjay Dutts’s crime, he conveniently ignores important facts and dimensions in this case.
    In 1993, Dawood gang smuggled rifles and hand grenades into India and distributed among various underworld elements, a part of which was kept in Sanjay Dutts house. All the culprits who have been caught in this act, has been slapped under TADA. Even the woman Zaibunissa, who had only kept the bag of weapons in transit and had no links with the d-gang (unlike Sanjay Dutt who had proven links with D company) could escape TADA. Only Sanjay Dutt, the most high profile, escaped the TADA HOW ??? Sanjay Dutt’s father, Sunil Dutt, after failing to receive help from members of the political establishment, including the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Sharad Pawar, approached Shiv Sena supremeBalasaheb Thackeray. 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. Other criminals who didn’t have high political connections had to suffer under TADA.
    And now, the moot point is why did Sanjay Dutt procure AK-56, magazines and arm grenades from the Dawood gang in the first place. For SELF DEFENCE ??? Sanjay Dutt’s father was the MP at that time and he was already getting 24 hours police protection. Besides he had three licensed weapons. If Sanjay Dutt still wanted more security, he could have easily got VIP security.. What is the need to turn to notorious anti-social elements for protection?? And, AK-56 rifles and hand grenades are not used for protection. They are used to create blasts and kill in masses. 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.”
    In his first confessional statement, made to his father and Congress MP Sunil Dutt who wanted to know why he had been stashing deadly arms, Sanjay Dutt said: “Because I have Muslim blood in my veins. I could not bear what was happening in the city.” There is culpable evidence with CBI of the telephonic conversations between Sanjay Dutt and D-gang which reveal that Sanjay Dutt was well aware that D-gang was trying to launch terror attacks on our country. However, he did-not act like a responsible citizen and informed the police, in which case precious life and property could have been saved. He’s a traitor who aided the terrorists to carry their nefarious acts and stored ammunition in his house so that they could be used against the Indian population. For such a grave treacherous act, he got only 5 years imprisonment ???

  7. Kabir Bedi writes - " Guilt by association has been the widespread perception among people who don’t dwell on the fine print.” Bedi, most educated Indians read the fine print. It is the utter hypocracy and double standards of people like you which is despicable, who like an ostrich will bury his head in the sand in the face of truth. Sanjay Dutt after having colluded with anti-nations to wreak havoc on our country got away from TADA citing the flimsy reason of “self defence”. Lesser criminals had to cool their heels under TADA who did-not have influential parents who can go begging asking for exceptions and waivers. This when there is evidence that he not only knew about the terror attacks that were to be perpetrated but also instigated his notorious friends to execute them swiftly. Besides, Bedi, let me tell you one thing, if any common man had been caught in the same act as Sanjay Dutt, he would definitely have to spend 12-15 years in jail, regardless of his intentions and the purpose of his actions.

    Sanjay Dutt got away very lightly for his grave act of crime. But now the culprit and criminal has been tried to be projected as a victim by Kabir Bedi.

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