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Sanjay Dutt not to seek pardon; Katju appeals to President for forgiveness on humanitarian grounds

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NEW DELHI: Even though actor Sanjay Dutt has said he would surrender when the time comes and would not be seeking pardon, Press Council of India Justice Markandey Katju has sent a written appeal to President Pranab Mukherjee seeking pardon for the actor and a 71-year old woman.

Both Dutt and the woman were sentenced to five years in jail by the Supreme Court last week in a case related to the 1993 Bombay blasts. Dutt has already served eighteen months in prison.

On 21 March, the apex court asked Dutt – convicted of illegal possession of weapons - to surrender within four weeks.

Asked about Dutt‘s statement, Justice Katju said, "That makes no difference to me...I will appeal for him because he is not a terrorist and he has been in jail for 18 months. He has suffered a lot and in a way he has faced is punishment."

A copy of the letter has also been sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.

Earlier, Justice Katju had written to the Maharashtra Governor, pointing out that Article 161 of the Constitution grants Governors and the President the authority to pardon or reduce a sentence. In his letter, he had said that the Supreme Court has not found Sanjay Dutt guilty for the 1993 bomb blasts, but only found him guilty of having in his possession a prohibited weapon without licence. He reiterated his stand today.

When asked on what grounds he was seeking pardon for Mr Dutt, Justice Katju said that "public good is one of them, there can be many other considerations like humanitarian considerations for grant of pardon," and added that the order of the President and a Governor is not subject to judiciary review.

Justice Katju also said that he had issued his appeal for Dutt without having interacted or spoken to the actor.

"I have not talked to Sanjay Dutt, I have not contacted him, and he has not approached me. In my first appeal which I issued for pardon, I did it without contacting him," he said.

Speaking out for the first time since the Supreme Court convicted him, 53-year old Dutt had appealed to the media for privacy and said: "...When I am not going for pardon, there is no debate."

An emotional Dutt, who broke down while addressing the media in Mumbai, said he had the highest respect for the court. "This a very, very tough time," he said. "Just let me be in peace till I go in." He said he felt shattered.

He said he loved his country. He also said he would be completing his work commitments.

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