Sanjay Dutt is just another convict
Sanjay Dutt, that great big victim of the Indian justice system, has asked the Supreme Court for more time before he surrenders. His reason? The big-budget bollywood flicks that are riding on him aren’t quite finished yet and he can apparently not stand the thought of his producers losing money on account of his unfortunate imprisonment.
As I write this, a news channel is running up statistics detailing which movies of his are still to finish shooting and which ones are worth how much money. With all due respect to the TV channels which presume to set our national agendas… that is not the point!
Raising no questions about Dutt’s professionalism, may I ask a harmless question?
If I had been sentenced by the highest court of the land to a term in prison for criminal acts committed, would the court then concern itself with how much the imprisonment disrupts my personal or professional life? More importantly, should it?
As it is, Sanjay Dutt has enjoyed more time as a free man in spite of having been convicted of a terrorism-related charge, than any non-celebrity would ever possibly have. Now, for him to expect to be given extra time so he may sort out his matters before his inevitable imprisonment is just plain insulting – the court as well as the aam admi.
The whole point of a jail term is a disruption – a cutting away from society. When the State says that a person must pay for his or her crimes by living in isolation from their family, their everyday life, and their professional concerns, the idea is to deprive the erring person of things that matter to him so that he may understand what his deeds have deprived others of.
The impression Sanjay Dutt wants to give us however, is that no one in the whole wide world has ever had to face grief such as his. That, as if his problems, his commitments, his losses should matter to the court and to the general public.
They shouldn’t. They don’t. Sanjay Dutt deserves to be treated no differently than any of us. There are countless criminals out there who have been judged by our judiciary and given prison terms that they deserve. Sanjay Dutt is just one of them.
Many of those languishing in Indian prisons right now used to be sole breadwinners for their families. Sanjay Dutt’s fate is by no means comparable to the suffering of those people and their families. Few things are more amusing (and infuriating, like in this case) than a movie star playing victim.
The only difference between Dutt and other convicts is that his tears have received national media attention and the judiciary is actually expected to care about him (even though it is, by definition, supposed to treat all Indians equally).
What remains to be seen of course, is whether Sanjay Dutt’s eventual fate is the result of a judicial decision or a political one. It is time we started seeing the Sanjay Dutt drama for what it really is.
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Vijayendra Mohanty is a writer and journalist based out of Noida and is Senior Editor at NiTi Central. His interests include storytelling, cultural discourses, religion, and mythology.