I am following, as the world at large around is, actor Sanjay Dutt’s journey to gaol. Not that I have a choice, theree seems to be little else that is being talked about, at least for the last two days.

Unsurprisingly, Dutt’s friends, of which there are many, have attacked the special court in Mumbai for pronouncing a `harsh’ and undeserved sentence. After all the crime is 14 years old and he has been held guilty for possession of arms, which, lets face it, is something that would have got him a commendation for bravery or held up as an inspiring act of self-defence in some countries. I am sure I don’t need to name them.

The point is not whether Dutt is guilty or not. He obviously is. Nor is this about whether he should have got six years or two years or should have got two years with the possibility of immediate probation and so on. My sense is that while he must have expected to spend some time in jail, he surely did not anticipate being carted off from the courts to jail immediately. As a journalist friend who spoke to the jailor told me, “That broke him down completely and he cried like a child all evening and night.”

Getting Caught And Not

The point, that I have been trying to debate in my own mind, is, what is the hit rate here ? Because this is not about innocence or guilt. Its not about being accessory to a crime or not. Its not about the intention to cause harm or loss to someone, an individual or collective. Quite simply, its about who gets caught and who does not.

The same journalist friend told me that the chances of Dutt getting some form of relief at the Supreme Court were high. “It’s a matter of some time though.” He also pointed out that it was amazing how in the famous BMW case (a young man and his friends mowed down six unsuspecting victims in Delhi), despite fairly conclusive evidence, nothing has happened. There is even a Wikipedia entry on Sanjiv Nanda, the perpetrator.

The Mumbai bomb blasts happened in 1993 on a hot March afternoon. I still recall sitting in a friend’s office in Nariman Point on a hot afternoon when we heard the dull explosion and the tremor that went through the building. We ran down and out of the building and noticed the crowds streaming towards Air India building where clearly, something had happened.

Show Me One Person Who Was Hanged ?

The blasts were, as the theory now goes, a revenge for the killings that happened in December 1992 in Mumbai, following the Babri Masjid storming. I remember biking around parts of south central Mumbai with a photo journalist friend. And watching in horror as groups of young, crazed looking men wandered around flinging huge stones at anything that came in their way, from cars, traffic lights to store fronts. They would openly mock the police cordons who stood in the distance, safe in their own self-described perimeter.

Hundreds were killed, a commission of enquiry was set up. As all of us know, no one really was handed out a jail term, leave alone a death sentence. One constable was suspended for police complicity. Appalling as that is, it pales in comparison to the 1984 riots where over 3,000 Sikhs were killed, mostly in northern India. A Sikh friend of mine traveling on the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani Express escaped sure death by cutting his hair off and shaving himself clean. A senior Delhi-based editor I know said a few years ago, “Show me one person who was hanged for 3,000 deaths.”

So what is the hit rate ? Is it a factor of influence. Sure, most people do get away because of it but you can’t say Dutt lacked it. Or is it influence in addition to a low profile ? Possibly yes, if you are high profile, then you are in trouble because the media will descend on you. But actor Salman Khan enjoys a similar status. He mowed down (yes, yes allegedly) workers sleeping in the open outside a bakery in suburban Mumbai. And what one would have thought is an open and shut case is still being tried. Yes, Khan never confessed.

The Karmic View

Is it a structural failure of the law, order and justice system ? Maybe, but I am one of those who believes that we have all the laws that any self respecting democracy ought to have in order to effectively govern its citizenry, give or take a few, small aspects. Like harsh penalties for drunken driving. The problem as we all know is administration and implementation.

Or, to conclude, as my journalist friend said, is it plain fate ? According to him, Dutt has always had a bad run with fate. From the first time he got caught and jailed 14 years ago to now, when he’s been sentenced again. Of course, no explanation works better than the karmic one. And maybe that’s the best answer to my question to who gets in and who stays out.


Neo said…
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Neo said…
It's true that the system has its flaws and the rich and influential have always played to their advantage.

But i agree with you, and believe in Karma - probably you are your best judge and if not then life will complete the circle, judge you and hit you ,appropriately, where it hurts the most
Anonymous said…
On this particular case I have very mixed feelings - while I agree no one should be above the law, people like sanjay dutt and all should be examples to the rest of the world that you cannot circumvent the law etc. etc. I also believe that given how long drawn this case has been, I think sanjay dutt has already suffered twice over - I wish the system could have done what it needed to a long time ago, at least, by now it would have been past him and he would have paid his price - he would have been in a position to move on. If you look at it, while the court has given him 6 years, it has effectively translated to almost 20 years of his life.

I also think given its been conclusively proved his motives were not that of the main people who plotted it, it was more a folly of youth or rather mis guided youth, what good will this punishment serve? I think punishments need to have an impact - either it punishes you for life for your crimes because you are beyond change, or it teaches you a lesson so that it deters you from anti-social behavior or it reforms you....

Unfortunately, I don't see what good this will do to sanjay dutt - I doubt it will make him a better person. I suspect, it will break him and make him a very bitter, cynical person....

His recent conduct has been that of a person making amends and trying to be a better person - will he get so frustrated that inspite of all his efforts, he is still being punished that he will regret this road under taken.

The human side of me says he has suffered enough and I think the court should not use him to make an example -

At the same time I have no sympathy for Alistair Pereira - everything about him, his body language, his attitude, the way the case was fudged, the lack of remorse, all tells me that he still has not learnt his lesson. If anything, he is one who is probably laughing to himself of how he has fooled the law of the land and feels nothing over the deaths caused by him.

About it being Sanjay Dutt’s fate – one can’t help but believe it. He is one person whose every attempt to make peace with life has resulted in shattered dreams. He has gone through far too much – from the loss of his mother when he needed her the most, to the death of his wife, and many such tragedies. His life seems almost like a karmic due he needs to pay back in his current lifetime.

Dream Catcher
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
It isn't about rich or poor — nor about being famous or not. It's about backing the right party. Sanjay acquired arms from Dawood's henchmen. Rather, it's said that the underworld chaps (who knew him well, of course) thought his home would be the perfect hideout for the weapons they'd acquired during the riots, him being a star and an MP's son. So, it was the proximity to the underworld that did him in. Madhukar Sarpotdar, too, was carrying unlicensed arms in a notified area, but he remains free to this day.
Another reason is it's possible to pin down blame on a select few — Dawood's henchmen were easily tracked down for a heinous terrorist activity. Another terrorist activity which took place three months prior to the blasts (killing three times more Indians than the blasts, the official figures say), goes unpunished, maybe because of the faceless mass of many perpetrators (or maybe because politicians have more clout?). Of course, the honcho (Thackeray) still roams scot-free and Chaggan Bhujbal, in a political stunt, tried to implicate him in 1998 and learnt that he still had the power to repeat '92 all over again.
The law sure needs introspection.
Anonymous said…
Whats the logic here? That Dutt got caught and others didnt ? Point is there are scores of cases where some people - rich or poor, famous or unknown get caught and some who get away.
The mistake lies in not viewing each case independently.
The minute you start comparing a Dutt to a Nanda or a Thackeray to a HKL Bhagat you are debasing the judicial system which has been largely untouched by the muck that our democracy is getting mired in.
And for those who want justice for the victims of 84 and 92 - may I suggest civil movements like the ones that brought justice to Jessica .
People may not know this but the Sena was forced to withdraw a transfer of the Thane Commissioner some years ago because the citizens of that city carried out sustained movement over several weeks that forced an intemperate political party to bow to the wishes of the people.
Ila B
rosh said…
"which, lets face it, is something that would have got him a commendation for bravery or held up as an inspiring act of self-defense in some countries"

Hmmmmmmm - am of Indian origin (though I've never lived in India)- however, I wouldn't suppose Indians possess an AK-56 & some pistols, for self defense, would they? Nor would anyone in their right minds, in any country have an AK-56 for self defense. That's just lame, and guess it provided the fact for "beyond a reasonable doubt" verdict.

I am not into bollywood movies, hence am not sure who he is, or his background detailed in the comments? However, like any citizen who broke the law - he must go to jail.
Anonymous said…
Well its not so much about Dutt's influence and status in society, as many have debated, for him being given the "harsh" sentence.

The moot point is what's the purpose of the law? Is it to punish those who commit crimes or to reform the individuals? When the judiciary puts a man in jail, is it to break his resolve or to help him bcome a better person?

If its the former, then obviously Dutt must be jailed. If its the latter, then i'm sure almost everyone would agree that since Dutt is a reformed man from wat he was 14 yrs ago, there's no need to jail him. That is a question only the people at the upper levels of our judicial system can answer.
govind... firstly a very happy indepedence day to all ..

im sure you ve been quite closely following up on this. i just have one question, which probably you are the best person to ask.. Did the media at any point make it difficult for the judge to let Sanjay off the hook ? Or does judge kote enjoy the media attention ? are cases ever dealt keeping all this in mind ?
Saurabh Gupta said…
TADA has always been taken seriously in the present system and being the person Sanjay Dutt, had invoked the penetration of underworld in the modern society and that was the sole reason of the publicity of the whole matter. I agree that it was a mistake of a Youth age but being an actor and son of a MP and getting involved in such a case brings a question of safety to millions of people.
Law and Order definitely needs restructuring and serious changes
ppp said…
if dutt is unlucky, then what do we say about scores of small time offenders in 1993 tada case who were never let off tada. should 14 years entitle acquittal for everyone who goes through the ordeal? if people are sympathetic to dutt who has suffred this for 14 years, i totally agree, tehn why such sympathy is not shown for the loaders, passport makers, watchmen, who till they were arrested were not quite sure of what was the conspiracy really was? for that matter dutt still kept coming out. even after he was convicted he was out till he was sentenced like women and terminally ill in the case, unlike other healthy not-very-old male accused in the case. that's lucky enough, isn't it?
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