'Detention should not be deprivation'
Advocate Rizwan Merchant pleaded for several facilities for the actor for his prison stay, including an electronic cigarette, drugs for his medical condition, exemption from hard labour, and early visits from relatives � not all the requests were granted
A forlorn Sanjay Dutt surrendered in court yesterday, along with co-accused Kersi Bapuji Adajania and Yusuf Rasool Nalwalla. Dutt’s wife Maanyata, sister Priya Dutt and brother-in-law Owen Roncon accompanied him into the box.
Maanyata was seen holding hands with her careworn husband and constantly comforting him. Dutt, dressed in blue sneakers and jeans and a white kurta, looked haggard and had bloodshot, baggy eyes.
Appearing on behalf of the accused, Advocate Rizwan Merchant told special judge GA Sanap that all of them were entitled to facilities inside prison.
Merchant urged the court to provide Dutt with an ‘electronic cigarette’ inside jail. “It is a form of medication. I have been told to quit smoking because my cholesterol and triglycerides are high. I am such a chain-smoker that if I don’t smoke I get headaches and migraine attacks. It is not a cigarette. It is a medicated tube containing 15 per cent nicotine,” said Dutt through his lawyer Merchant.
Not buying the argument, Judge Sanap jokingly pointed to Merchant and said, “This is prescribed by this doctor!”
Dutt also requested for medication for his Stenosis, a disorder afflicting arteries in the legs. Dutt requires the medication to prevent the arteries from bursting, and was granted permission to keep the same with him in prison. “He should also be allowed a thin mattress and thin pillow as a vein is jutting out between two bones of his spine,” Merchant added. For Nalwalla, the court has allowed ‘homemade’ diet food.
Dutt was also apprehensive about facing hard labour. “Other prisoners under TADA in Kolhapur jail are made to work in harsh conditions, and though I cannot grieve for them, I beg this court to spare me the same fate,” pleaded Merchant on behalf of Dutt.
The other TADA prisoners are also not permitted to leave their cells, a deprivation that Merchant argued did not ‘form part of the sentence’. “I hope I’m wrong, but detention should not be deprivation,” said Merchant.
Dutt’s final plea was to be given access to his lawyer and family in course of his stay in prison. “I have a curative petition and a petition for pardon pending. I will need to be given access to my lawyers to discuss my case,” said Merchant, adding, “Please allow my family to visit me. If I go in now, I can’t meet them for a month.” Dutt wanted to be allowed visits from his wife, children, sisters and brothers-in-law.
The judge directed Merchant to approach the jail authorities to get clearances for family members. Dutt could be denied visits from his kin till the police complete procedural formalities regarding their identity verification.
The court addressed Dutt in the dock after completing procedures with Kersi and Nalwalla. Dutt was asked his name and personal information, and the duration of his sentence. “And how many days did you spend in jail?” Sanap asked, to which Dutt replied, “551.”
Addressing Dutt, Sanap said, “I am allowing everything, except smoking. You need to stop smoking.” Dutt smiled, nodded and returned to the dock. He looked relieved that the ordeal was over.
Justice A S Oak of the Bombay High Court inspected the court premises while Dutt’s surrender was being processed.
Judge Sanap was outraged to find that Altaf Sayed, one of the accused slated to surrender yesterday was missing. Advocate Subhash Jadhav told the court that the media and public chaos outside the building had effectively prevented them from entering the premises. The court blasted the police for this lapse, and asked a senior officer, “What is going on? Is it not your job to make arrangements? He [the convict] can’t even get in!” Sayed eventually walked in around 3.15 pm, about 20 minutes after the other men.
Life as a convict
For the first six months, Dutt will be treated as an unskilled worker and will be paid wages of Rs 25 per day. After the first phase, his daily wage will be raised to Rs 35. On completing his training, he will be paid Rs 40 per day. He will be allowed a pocket allowance of Rs 1,500 per month from his family for purchasing toiletries or snacks from the prison canteen.
A maximum of 5 members of his family will be allowed to meet him once a month for 20 minutes. His activities on Sunday will include drudgework like washing his own clothes, in addition to other chores that jail officials allot him.
Dutt's days in prison
5.30 am: Time to rise
6.00 am: Prayers
6.05 am: 45-minute-long session of PT and drill
7.00 am - 8.00 am: Tea and breakfast (might get poha, upma or sheera)
8.00 am: Work session (could be allotted work in the kitchen, carpentry or some other section)
11.30 am: Lunch (Chapati, dal, rice and vegetables)
12 noon - 4.00 pm: Another work session
4.00 pm - 6.00 pm: Reading (newspapers), or playing (volleyball, carom etc)
6.00 pm: Dinner (same as lunch)
6.30 pm - 9.00 pm: Watching TV in barracks with other convicts (only Doordarshan channels)
9.00 pm: Bedtime
What Dutt will be handed when he enters jail
>> Two Gandhi caps, two khadi kurtas and two pajamas
>> A mat, pillow, two blankets and a bedsheet