New Delhi: Justice Markandey Katju, chairman of the Press Council of India, in a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee Thursday, has sought pardon for Sanjay Dutt under article 72 of the constitution.
In a separate letter, he also sought pardon for Zaibunnisa Kazi, charged in the same case and awarded similar punishment by the Supreme Court.
Katju has written that Dutt acquired the weapon for self-defence and not for any terrorist activity. Since he was not involved in the 1993 Mumbai blasts, justice, in Dutt's case, should be tempered with mercy, the retired judge has held.
Katju said he was not questioning the verdict of the Supreme Court, but since the man had already served 18 months in prison, and since he had undergone enormous hardships in the 20 years since the case began, he was fit candidate for mercy.
He also said that while mercy should not be granted just because Dutt is a celebrity, the actor should also not be denied justice because of his stature. Justice Katju pointed out that Dutt had two small children, and that in the time since the case began, he did "good social work".
Dutt was, a week ago, sentenced to five years in prison on charges of illegal possession of arms by the Supreme Court.
Katju sought pardon also for Zaibunnisa Kazi. Katju appealed that since the woman was a 70-year-old widow, who had undergone surgery to remove a tumour in the kidney, mercy should be shown to her. He said that given how frail she was, she may not survive five years in jail.
Katju pointed out that the woman had already spent nine months in jail, and that she deserved pardon even if the merits of the case were considered.
Kazi was innocent of the main charge of conspiracy in the blasts, and no arms were recovered from her house, Katju pointed out.
The charge against her was based on the retracted confession of a co-accused, who claimed that she possessed illegal weapons, Katju said.