Wednesday, Jan 26, 2022
For the record

'Even If Sanjay Dutt Has Not Sent An Appeal I Am Entitled To Send Such An Appeal

After being corrected by Mahesh Jethmalani that the Governor is not the competent authority, the Chairman of Press Council now shoots off a letter to the President, now listing four instead of six reasons for pardon

'Even If Sanjay Dutt Has Not Sent An Appeal I Am Entitled To Send Such An Appeal
'Even If Sanjay Dutt Has Not Sent An Appeal I Am Entitled To Send Such An Appeal

Letter to H.E. The President of India for Pardon to Sanjay Dutt

March 28,2013

1. H.E. The President of India,
Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi.

2. H.E. The Prime Minister of India,
South Block, New Delhi.

3. H.E. The Home Minister of India,
South Block, New Delhi.

Your Excellency,

Re: Pardon to Sanjay Dutt

You would be aware that Sanjay Dutt has been sentenced by Hon’ble the Supreme Court to 5 years imprisonment. By this letter I am appealing to you to grant pardon to him under Article 72 of the Constitution of India. In this connection I wish to state as follows:

The legal position:

The power of the President to pardon etc is contained in Article 72 of the Constitution which states:

“The President shall have the power to grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or to suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence”

The leading case on the power of the President/Governor to grant pardon etc is the Constitutional Bench Judgment of the Supreme Court in Maru Ram vs. Union of India AIR 1980 SC 2147. It has been observed therein

“Considerations for exercise of power under Articles 72/161 may be myriad and their occasions protean, and are left to the appropriate Government, but no consideration nor occasion can be wholly irrelevant, irrational, discriminatory or mala fide. Only in these rare cases will the court examine the exercise”.

In Kehar Singh vs. Union of India AIR 1989 SC 653, the Supreme Court observed that the judicial power and the power to pardon are totally different. The power of pardon cannot ordinarily be subjected to judicial review except on very narrow grounds mentioned in Maru Ram’s Case.

From a reading of these Constitutional Bench Judgments, the following principles can be derived:

  1. The power of pardon can be exercised for various reasons e.g. humanitarian considerations, and is not limited to the public good. This needs to be emphasized since it has been stated by some persons on TV Channels that the power of pardon can only be exercised for the public good. The Supreme Court observation in Maru Ram’s case that “Considerations for exercise of power under Article 72/161 may be myriad” is a complete reply to those who say that this power can only be exercised for the public good and for no other reason.
  2. However, as observed in Maru Ram’s case, this power cannot be exercised for irrelevant, irrational, discriminatory or malafide considerations.
  3. The court cannot sit as a court of appeal over the order of the President/Governor granting pardon. The scope of judicial review of such an order is extremely limited, and can be exercised only in rare cases when the court finds that such an order was malafide, arbitrary or discriminatory.

Maru Ram’s case and Kehar Singh’s case are Constitutional Bench judgments, i.e. judgments of 5 Judge Benches, and hence anything said to the contrary in judgments of smaller benches of the Supreme Court will not be good law.

Keeping in mind the above legal position we may consider Sanjay Dutt’s case.

The facts of Sanjay Dutt’s Case

Before coming to Sanjay Dutt’s case certain objections by some people may be replied to.

It has been stated that the law has to be the same for everybody. This is no doubt true, but the facts may be different in different cases. We have therefore to see the facts of Sanjay Dutt’s case, and then consider whether he should be granted pardon.

It is then alleged that Sanjay Dutt is a celebrity, and granting him pardon will send a wrong message. In my opinion Sanjay should not be granted pardon merely because he is a celebrity. At the same time he should not put to disadvantage merely because he is a celebrity. If he deserves pardon, he should not be denied it just because he is celebrity.

In paragraph 70 of the Supreme Court judgment it has been observed: “In the case of Sanjay Dutt, the Designated Court took a view on the basis of his own confession that the weapons were not acquired for any terrorist activity but they were acquired for self-defence, therefore, acquittal was recorded in respect of the charge under Section 5 of TADA. We fully agree with the same” 

The Supreme Court has held that Sanjay Dutt was not involved in the 1993 bomb blasts, and he is not a terrorist. The only charge on which Sanjay Dutt has been found guilty is the charge of having in his possession a prohibited weapon. However, regarding this charge the Supreme Court has observed that Sanjay Dutt was keeping the weapon not for terrorist activity but for self defence. This being the verdict of the Supreme Court it has be accepted. 

Of course possession of such a weapon without a licence is illegal, and therefore the Supreme Court was bound to give minimum punishment of 5 years imprisonment mentioned in Section 25 (1A) of the Arms Act. I am therefore not questioning the Supreme Court verdict.

However, judicial proceedings are different from the pardon proceedings. As held in Kehar Singh’s case (Supra), the considerations in the two proceedings are different. For instance, in judicial proceedings, the court has no discretion to award lesser punishment than the minimum prescribed by law. But in pardon proceeding the President/Governor can grant pardon even if the person convicted has not served the minimum punishment, as in Nanavati’s case. The power to grant pardon is a Constitutional power, and no constitutional provision can be curtailed or controlled by an ordinary statute.

Now the question is whether pardon should be granted to Sanjay Dutt or not.

In my opinion pardon should be granted for the following reasons:

  1. He has already undergone 18 months imprisonment
  2. After his release on bail after undergoing 18 months imprisonment it took him 5 or 6 years to restore his damaged career. During this 5 or 6 years he was often ostracized by people as he had the brand of a terrorist on himself. He did not get film offers as producers thought that the film may remain incomplete if he is sent to jail midway. He could not get bank loans. He had to take permission of the court for foreign shooting every time he wanted to go abroad.. He had to undergo various other tribulations and indignities during this 20 year period.
  3. Sanjay Dutt has got married, and they have two small children.
  4. During this 20 years period when the case was going on there is no allegation that he did anything wrong, rather he did good social work.

Considering all these factors I am of the definite opinion  that Sanjay Dutt should be granted pardon

Had he not undergone imprisonment for a single day and not faced so many hardships for the last 20 years I would not have appealed for his pardon. But in my respectful opinion he has substantially undergone the punishment. He may not have remained in prison for 5 years but he has undergone sufferings which is substantially equivalent to that.

I am reminded of the famous speech of Portia in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice that justice should be tempered with mercy. In my opinion we should take the approach of Portia rather than that of Shylock who wanted a pound of flesh.   I am clarifying that 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. I have in the past appealed for pardon for many person who were not celebrities e.g.  Gopal Dal, Sarabjeet Singh, Khalil Chisthy, etc.

I therefore appeal to you to pardon Sanjay Dutt under Article 72 of the Constitution. I mention that Article 72 does not state who should send the appeal. Hence even if Sanjay Dutt has not sent an appeal I am entitled to send such an appeal.

I conclude by quoting a shlocka of Brahaspati:

“Kevalam shaastram aashritya na kartavyo hi nirnayah
Yuktiheeney vichaare tu, dharmahaani prajaayate”

which means

“The decision should not be given merely by following the letter of the law
For if the decision is inappropriate injustice will follow”

With regards,

Yours faithfully,
(Markandey Katju) 

Also See:


Outlook Newsletters


Read More from Outlook

Lament Of Separation: Songs Of Habba Khatun, Last Queen Of Kashmir, Still Echo In Valley

Lament Of Separation: Songs Of Habba Khatun, Last Queen Of Kashmir, Still Echo In Valley

In happy times and sad, Habba Khatun’s sensuous songs make both young and old emotional. With the never-ending conflict bringing tragedies to every doorstep, Habba’s lyrics of separation amplify their mourning.

How Indian Laws Govern People’s Right To Love And Live

How Indian Laws Govern People’s Right To Love And Live

In India, only those relationships between a man and a woman are considered to be legitimate when there is a marriage between the two.

Kohli Quits Test Captaincy, Leaves Leadership Vacuum

Kohli Quits Test Captaincy, Leaves Leadership Vacuum

Virat Kohli, 33, had recently stepped down as India's T20I captain and was subsequently removed as the ODI captain.

UP Elections 2022: How Congress Is Harnessing Power Of 'Persecuted' Women To Counter BJP

UP Elections 2022: How Congress Is Harnessing Power Of 'Persecuted' Women To Counter BJP

A Mahila Congress leader, who is the face of the ‘Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon’ campaign, however, has accused the party of anti-women bias after she was denied a ticket.