In February 2016, Dutt completed his sentence after it was curtailed by eight months due to good behaviour.
Mumbai: The Bombay high court has questioned the state over the ‘soft stance’ it has taken to release actor Sanjay Dutt eight months before his prison term.
The HC also asked the state the criterion for releasing Dutt and parameters for assessing his ‘good conduct’ while he was in and out of jail for most of the time. It also asked the state to submit details of the decision-making authority and whether the DIG prisons was in the loop while truncating the term.
The HC was hearing a PIL against the early release of Dutt, who was convicted for possessing arms that was part of haul smuggled into India to carry out the 1993 blasts and was undergoing his sentence in Yerwada jail.
In July 2007, the TADA court held Dutt guilty of illegally possessing an AK 56 rifle in a notified area of Mumbai and sentenced him to six years’ rigorous imprisonment. Later, in May 2013, Dutt appealed in the Supreme Court but the court turned down his plea. However, it reduced his sentence to five years. In February 2016, Dutt completed his sentence after it was curtailed by eight months due to good behaviour.
A division bench of Justice R.M. Savant and Justice SS Jadhav was hearing a criminal public interest litigation filed by Pune-based activist Pradeep Bhalekar who had challenged the regular paroles and furloughs granted to Dutt when he was serving his sentence and his subsequent early release by almost eight months. The petitioner’s lawyer Nitin Satpute expressed surprise at the fact that the state managed to assess Dutt’s good behaviour despite him not surrendering on time after coming out on parole twice and the jail authorities condoning the delay on both occasions.
Taking cognisance of the objections, the bench directed the state to elaborate on the procedure it followed while deciding that Dutt deserved leniency and, thus, a truncated sentence. The court also asked to know whether the DIG prisons was aware of the recommendation sent by the jail superintendent to the governor seeking permission to curtail Dutt’s sentence by eight months.
The court also expressed surprise and asked when and how the state had managed to assess Dutt’s good behaviour and conduct when he was half the time out on either parole or furlough since he surrendered in May 2013. The court said that the state should file an affidavit in this regard and the matter would be heard in a week.