Sanjay Dutt should be pardoned and allowed to do what he does best, act in movies. I don’t know him. I don’t belong to the film fraternity. I am not producing or directing his film. I am not his booze or exercise buddy, though I am a big fan of Munnabhai-I & II and Dutt’s laid back comedy.

I strongly believe that justice would be served if the actor is set free. He is a good albeit foolish man who has suffered enough.

My argument is straight forward — why should any man or woman, Dutt included endure more after facing the sapping Indian litigation processes for two decades that leads to a sentence of five years out of which he has already been in jail for 18 months. 

Shouldn’t there be a connection between the duration of the case, the punishment and the non-heinous nature of the crime? Can there be no solution to the debilitating process of dispensing justice in our country?

Nirbhay’s gang rape triggered the stringent anti-rape laws. Similarly, there is need to extend the debate beyond the Dutt case only. Let us also include the countless litigation relating to dowry, property, murder, robbery, rape, motor accidents and more that carry on endlessly in Indian courts.

Let the Dutt instance be used to build some momentum to implement judicial accountability that could benefit millions others, many innocent, caught in the vicious and unending cycle of litigation that can crush the most indomitable spirits.

As a matter of fact, let the Dutt case be seen as a slap on India’s unending judicial process that often victimizes victims.

Agreed, there is a due process of law, but should it be so stretched and unyielding that it destroys a person’s soul, spirit, career, relationships, financial security whether he or she is innocent or not.

Isn’t two decades enough to judge Dutt – he has been a good father, brother, husband, citizen and actor. He has bravely fought to retrieve a semblance of sanity and normalcy in his life after being shunned and boycotted by the same people who ask for his release today due to the millions riding on his movies.

Even those convicted of murder or rape are let off for good behavior after a certain time period in jail to be able to re-build their lives as free individuals.

There is constant pressure on government agencies to perform on time, whether it is to deliver a road project, passport or driving license.

In India prolonging delivery of justice has become a tactic, a strategy, the immediate beneficiaries of which can range from mercenary lawyers to investigating agencies and sometimes the judges themselves.

The rich and the powerful facing serious corruption, murder and rape charges know how to tamper such a system.

They don’t care about the law of the land as long as their very highly paid lawyers play the judiciary in a way that the case never ends. Bail is life time freedom. The victims and witnesses are bumped off, threatened or die naturally.

This is the tragedy of India’s judicial system. Justice delayed is justice denied. Should not our judiciary be answerable and accountable?

Opinions are divided about Dutt. Intellectuals and those active on social networking sites have clinically suggested that the actor should be made to pay for his crime. Many have argued that Dutt is lucky not to have been convicted under more stringent terror laws as there is clear evidence that he hobnobbed with the perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts. The court, however, has held that Dutt is not a terrorist. He procured the weapons for self-defense which is likely true.

In the 90s Indian politics had turned viciously communal and Dutt, whose mother Nargis was a Muslim, feared for the lives of his family members. Prior to the Mumbai blasts in 1993, the likes of Dawood Ibrahim, associated henchmen and relatives freely mixed with Bollywood stars and cricketers.

The innumerable pictures during the Indo-Pak Sharjah cricket matches are clear evidence. If such snaps are read as complicit in terror, then half of Bollywood today and most cricketers of the 80s and 90s would probably be in jail.

Ibrahim was a smuggler and gangster who financed movies and fixed cricket matches. It was only after the 1993 blasts that he was branded India’s most wanted terrorist. Given such contexts, the appeal is to pardon Dutt not because he is a celebrity, not because he legally deserves to go to jail, but to celebrate the spirit of a man who has refused to be cowed down and broken. It should set a precedent for others too.   

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