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Nobody is above the law, Mr Sanjay Dutt
August 02, 2007
Does the beleaguered actor deserve the outpouring of sympathy? Is Judge P D Kode's decision to hand down a sentence of six years of rigorous imprisonment too harsh? Is Union Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi right in saying that he feels that Dutt has 'suffered enough?' My answer to all three questions is the same: No!
A common joke doing the SMS rounds goes that Sanjay Dutt is a 'Munna' but is certainly not a 'Bhai.' A stranger reading this would be left with the impression that the actor is an innocent little lamb among the big bad wolves of the Hindi film industry. This is simply rubbish.
Sanjay Dutt was born in 1959. That means he was well into his thirty-fourth year when he was arrested in 1993. A man that hasn't gained a modicum of common sense by that age is certainly not a man that can be trusted with any kind of firearms, leave alone an AK-56.
Incidentally, for the benefit of all those arguing that Sanjay Dutt is being 'penalised' because of his celebrity status, I would like to point out that the actor has already got a huge break by being charged under the Arms Act rather than under TADA's draconian provisions. (Not that the Arms Act, in any case, permits a private citizen to own an assault rifle such as the AK-56!) That said, I think the judge was right in ruling that it would be unfair to describe the actor as a terrorist. But the whole episode throws light on the gray area between anti-terrorist legislation and the Arms Act that was designed for a more innocent age.
It also underlines the leisurely pace of justice in India. Sanjay Dutt was arrested in 1993. Why has it taken 14 years to pronounce sentence? Small wonder then that Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam confesses that the sentencing felt like freedom for him since he could finally lay down the burden of the case with a clear conscience.
Incidentally, did you hear anybody express any sympathy for Nikam, who has been receiving threats for the better part of the past decade? Or do Sanjay Dutt's supporters believe that 'mental torture' and 'stress' are conditions that afflict only their pal?
Literally millions of people are forced to deal with the consequences of a family member suffering from cancer or other life-threatening disease. That does not drive them to drink or drugs. Come to that, even Sanjay Dutt's sisters, both of whom are younger than him, responded with greater dignity and responsibility after their mother's death.
This conversation reputedly came within days of Sanjay Dutt receiving exemption from appearing in the special court for two months; at such a time he had no business talking to any suspect acquaintance, even if the conversation were confined to inanities about the weather.
T V R Shenoy