Monday, August 06, 2007

Congress party supporting Sanjay Dutt

Imagine that you are located near the border, living in Punjab or Jammu & Kashmir. You have an idea of who the militants / mafia / terrorists are, although you have never assisted them in their work. One day, you think that you need some weapons to defend yourself and hence you go to the terrorists, ask them to lend you some weapons. They agree, and send you three assault rifles of the sort commonly used by terrorists and some grenades. You take your pick, and send the remaining back. Later when police call you, you realize that this could be something wrong, and you destroy the evidence. Remember, all this is illegal, with the case of actually keeping weapons banned under the Arms Act (minimum sentence of 5 years). Now, if you were a commoner, innocent in your mind, you would still have been prosecuted, with the chance of being included in the conspiracy and being racked up on terrorism charges. Sounds pretty legal so far. And now pretend that you are not a commoner, but a film star, but have done everything else the same. What should the sentence be, and should it be any different?

And this is exactly the case with Sanjay Dutt. he has been convicted under the Arms Act, and with the minimum sentence being 5 years, he has got 6 years. And once this sentencing has been done, there has been a high-profile campaign raised against this sentence, with people calling it unfair, that he has suffered enough during the time that the case was ongoing, and so on. Hogwash ! While I may sympathize with him, I cannot but feel that a country is the poorer if it treats people differently based on their social position and celebrity status. He broke the law, and got the punishment prescribed under the law. In fact, other convicts have protested at the better treatment that he is getting, after being out on bail for so long, and not even being sent back to jail after his conviction, but only after his sentencing.
Now, he has close connections with the Congress Party; after all his father was a minister and an MP for a long time, his sister is a sitting MP, and it is okay to plead for his betterment, and so on. At the same time, a party in governance is not expected to plead for differential treatment for him just because of his connections or because he is a celebrity. In such a case, the remarks by Kapil Sibal are totally unwarranted:

"We may be concerned or saddened. But any political party cannot do anything in such a case where the law has to take its own course," party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi replied to repeated questions about Sibal's support for the jailed actor.
His comments came after the Union Science and Technology Minister reiterated that the "Congress should stand by Dutt in this hour of crisis because of the long association his father had with the party and also because his sister is a sitting party MP."

Such statements are tantamount to asking for preferential treatment. However, the Congress would be careful about being too closely identified with the 'sentence is too harsh' lobby, since that would be a Public Relations disaster for the Congress; with the media and opponents criticizing it for not caring about the victims of the bomb blast, and for doing differential treatment based on his celebrity status.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:39 AM