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Does Sanjay Dutt deserve the reprieve denied to Zaibunissa?

Updated: April 17, 2013, 11:58 AM IST
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Does Sanjay Dutt deserve the reprieve denied to Zaibunissa?
The court denied the review petition of Zaibunissa Kazi and four others to extend the time to surrender.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday gave actor Sanjay Dutt four more weeks to surrender in the 1993 Bombay blasts case. The actor, who had been asked by the court to surrender by April 18 wanted six months' extension to complete his pending projects before surrendering to undergo his prison term. He was granted four weeks on humanitarian grounds as a number of projects in Bollywood were riding on him.

However, the court on Tuesday denied the review petition of Zaibunissa Kazi and four others to extend the time to surrender. The court directed her to surrender by the given deadline of April 18. Apart from Zaibunissa, the SC rejected review pleas of Kersi Bapuji Adjania, Yusuf Khan, Ranjit Kumar Singh and Altaf Ali Sayed.

Dutt's reprieve has sparked outrage from a section of people who hold the judgment unfair to Zaibunissa. Tushar Deshmukh, who lost his mother in the 1993 Bombay blasts, expressed shock over the partial relief to Dutt and called the verdict shameful. "This is shameful. The surrender time should not be increased for Sanjay Dutt. The producers should have thought of it," said Tushar.

The court did observe that the producers should have realised and considered that one such case was coming up and questioned as to why they went ahead with projects involving Dutt. The court found the argument that there was a huge amount riding on him weak.

The actor, convicted under the Arms Act in the blasts case, had argued that he was a young man in 1993 and has done a lot of social work since then and so leniency should be shown towards him.

But the Dutt judgement came as a shock to Shagufta Kazi whose mother Zaibunissa's mercy petition in the same case was denied by the apex court.
"It is very important to be a celebrity in this country. I had applied on medical grounds. Sanjay Dutt was lucky and I was not," said Shagufta.

However, senior lawyer Majid Memon appealed to Shagufta to be patient. "I appeal Zaibunissa's daughter not to think the court was guided by Sanjay Dutt's celebrity status. Each case depends on its merits and demerits. Sanjay Dutt has been given extension of surrender not because of the celebrity status but on the grounds of compassion."

Zaibunissa was charged for possessing illegal arms and ammunition and also under the stringent TADA Act. Former Supreme Court judge and Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju had made a representation to the President on behalf of Kazi on March 18 and on behalf of other two on April 10.

"I wish I or my mother was a celebrity," Shagufta said.

The 71-year-old Zaibunissa's sentence of five years by the Bombay High court was upheld by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court had said that all convicts should surrender within four weeks of its upholding the Bombay High Court judgement.

The Supreme Court had on March 21, 2013, upheld Dutt's conviction in the 1993 Bombay blasts case but his jail sentence was reduced from six to five years. He along with other convicts were given four weeks (April 18) to surrender. Dutt has already served 18 months in jail and has to serve the remaining 3.5 years in jail.

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First Published: April 17, 2013, 11:58 AM IST
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