The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a partial relief to Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt, a convict in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, by granting him him four-week time on ‘humanitarian grounds’ to surrender before jail
authorities to undergo 42 months remaining sentence.
Dutt, 53, had sought six months time to surrender to complete his seven movies in which producers have invested over Rs 278 crore.
The Apex Court accepted the plea of humanitarian grounds raised by him for extending the time for surrender which was to expire on Thursday but made it clear that no further extension will be granted to him.
“Considering the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case and reasons stated in the petition, we are not inclined to extend the time by six months. However, we extend the time by four weeks from tomorrow. It is made clear that no further extension will be granted,” a bench comprising justices P Sathasivam and BS Chauhan said.
The bench also noted in its order that senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Dutt, has agreed to the same that no further extension will be sought.
At the outset, Salve said the plea by Dutt is only on grounds of mercy and not on any Constitutional rights.
No sooner had Salve commenced his submission, the bench said, “You cannot say your client was unaware of the judgement of the designated court in 2007.”
The court said the main reason cited in the petition for extension of time is that Rs 278 crore has been invested by producers in seven movies starring Dutt. However, it asked Salve, “Are they not aware that in 2007 a judgement was declared”.
Salve said that a little extension of time to Dutt to surrender would help him to wind up his commitments.
“It happens in life” was how Salve described the entire episode.
When the court wanted to know from him what according to him would be a reasonable time to surrender, he said “a little more than eight weeks could be considered purely on humanitarian grounds and mercy”.
However, CBI counsel and Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval said he has “written instructions to oppose” Dutt’s plea.
“The present application seeks review of your judgement. It is not a right approach,” the ASG submitted.
However, the bench said “we can extend the time for his surrender”.
At this, Raval informed the court about the order passed on Tuesday by a bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir dismissing the petitions of three convicts who had contended that till the mercy pleas filed on their behalf are decided by the President, they should be given time to surrender.
Salve said in those petitions, legal grounds concerning Article 21 of the Constitution relating to fundamental right to life and liberty were raised.
Raval said that in those petitions, grounds of age, ill health, among others, were taken and rejected by the court.
“Here (Dutt’s plea) its a commercial ground,” Raval said.
However, the bench said it cannot allow same rule in all cases and that it depends on case to case basis.
“Here they (Dutt and his lawyer) are only pressing on grounds of mercy,” the bench said.