Key Bollywood personalities and Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju have sought pardon for actor Sanjay Dutt, handed a five-year term sentence by the Supreme Court for acquiring guns illegally.
The BJP, however, asked the sentence be implemented.
Dutt, who stole hearts with his Munnabhai series as an ungainly ruffian-turned-Gandhian pacifist, was first arrested in 1993 and has spent 18 months in jail.
The actor, who has four weeks to turn himself in, was found with weapons given by the gangsters who carried out the 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai.
In a letter to Maharashtra governor K Sankarnarayanan, former Supreme Court judge Katju urged clemency. Under article 161 of the Constitution, the governor has powers to waive off prison sentences. Dutt’s wife Manyata is also said to be contemplating a meeting with Kajtu.
“There is rule of law in the country. It is equal for everyone — be it a common man or an influential person,” said BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain.
Katju said the events took place 20 years ago and Dutt had “suffered a lot”. Also, he has not been held to be a terrorist and had no hand in the blasts.
“No doubt, he committed an offence by having a prohibited weapon without licence, but... there are extenuating circumstances,” Katju stated.
Law minister Ashwani Kumar declined to comment.