Mumbai: Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao has rejected a plea to waive off the remaining jail term of actor Sanjay Dutt, convicted in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.
"While turning down the plea for pardon, the Governor followed the advice of Home Department which had recommended him that the plea for pardon be turned down as Dutt had been convicted by the highest (Supreme) court. It was felt that granting him pardon would set a bad precedent", an official said.
The petition to cancel Dutt's remaining jail term was submitted by former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju, who had argued that Dutt was "not a terrorist" and had only erred. The 56-year-old actor was jailed in 1996 and spent 18 months behind bars before walking out on bail.
In 2013, the Supreme Court sentenced him to five years in prison for the crime. The 18 months that Dutt had earlier spent in jail were taken into account and he was to spend another 42 months. After the imprisonment in May 2013, Dutt has spent nearly 30 months in prison already and is due to walk out as a free man in February 2016.
After he was sent to Pune-based Yerwada jail in May 2013, Dutt had been out on parole twice and an equal number of times on furlough. In October 2013, he was out on furlough for 14 days, which was extended by a fortnight. In January 2014, a 30-day parole was extended by another 30 days. In December 2014, he was granted a 14-day furlough. Since August 27, 2015, he has been again out on furlough.
In his petition, Katju had said, "The only charge on which Sanjay Dutt has been found guilty is the charge of having in his possession a prohibited weapon". He also emphasised that he was in no way questioning the Supreme Court verdict.
He had written that though the imprisonment of five years for possessing the weapon was correct, Dutt had suffered enough after spending 18 months in jail before he was sentenced in March 2013 and thus would be a fit case for pardon.
"I prayed that until my pardon petition is disposed of respite should be granted because Article 72 not only empowers the President to grant pardon, it also empowers the President to grant respite or suspension of sentence. So, till the pardon petition is decided, I have prayed that the President should grant respite," Katju had said.
Along with Dutt, Katju had also sought pardon for Zaibunnisa Kazi, another convict in the 1993 blasts case. Katju had written, "I am not appealing that Sanjay Dutt should be pardoned because he is a celebrity. I am also appealing for pardon to Zaibunnasa Kazi, co-accused who is not a celebrity."