Guldasta

A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Sanjay Dutt gets “Punishment” July 31, 2007

Filed under: Ethics and Values,India,life — gurdas @ :

 The breaking story on all news channels is the 6year jail term handed out to Indian film star Sanjay Dutt. The drama called justice left me thinking on what justice is all about. From the way things go these days and from the choice of words of news reporters, it seems justice is all about punishment. That is something I am very uncomfortable with. I believe society needs to do away with punishment courts and bring in reform courts. Justice should be about healing, reform and correction. Punishment should be an option only when the accused refuses to follow a path of reform or simply refuses to cooperate in a manner beneficial to society. And there is no reason whatsoever to give someone a life sentence. Let us hold that until we know more about life and death, shall we?

Lets take the example of Sanjay Dutt. Without doubt he committed an offence by possessing an AK-56 (amongst other weapons) during the days following 1993 riots. But is that all to it? Who takes responsibility for the failure of law and order leading ordinary citizens to feel threatened and helpless; which leads to them taking desperate measures? Will the government stand trial and will the state chief minister go to jail for not attending to his/her responsibility? I am not trying to justify the crime committed by Dutt, just trying to explain.

Having proven his guilt, one must ask what are the options before us for Sanjay Dutt? The usual option is to hand out a punishment – some jail term. I ask, what purpose does this punishment serve? Does the society and the country benefit by Sanjay Dutt going to jail? Then there is the question of message to aspiring criminals. How about Dutt coming on TV, saying sorry to the country and telling us how much his action cost him in terms of peace of mind and grace? Isn’t that a better message? Hardened criminal minds in any case will not be affected by the punishment given to Dutt. But the “criminal due to drastic circumstances”, such as the Mumbai riots of 1993, will get the message.

How about Sanjay Dutt receiving a punishment that says “you will build an orphanage for children who lose their parents in riots and also build a hospital that attends to trauma patients”. That will benefit society, give Dutt a chance to reform, increase his love for society and increase society’s love and patience with people who are fundamentally good but just happen to commit an anomalous crime.

Possessing a weapon does not make Sanjay Dutt a criminal. He is not a threat to society. And his serving 6 years in jail will not benefit society.

So why are we sending him to jail? Why are we pushing him into a dark cold cell where his spirit will slowly die while he could have been so much more beneficial to society by staying outside? To satisfy our age old dusty notions of justice? An idea being carried forward from the days of monarchs and autocrats; that the criminal must be punished with no concern to the human life which, instead of being reformed, will be destroyed?

And Dutt is only an example I use. There are hundreds and thousands of such people in India who are not criminals but end up being jailed for years simply because out of the millions of moments in their lives, they lost control once. And behind nearly every such crime is the basic failure of the government to create a welfare state. Unfortunately, the government does not stand trail. It is a shame that we forget the hundreds of times these people have been good citizens and human beings. And sending them to jail probably stifles the good more than correct the bad. How sad.

Recent news stories increasingly give the impression that society is becoming intolerant. A fact highlighted by the many police brutalities in the form of lathi charge at protestors. I cannot forget a particular scene in which a policeman is shown holding up the face of a 70 year old man while he boots his cheeks. Repeatedly. The old man was minimally dressed and you could count the bones of his rib cage. And similar pictures are flashed every other month. What are we doing? Is punishment so desirable that we become animals?

I recollect another case which is an example of why our present system of justice is doing no justice to society. The case was of Salman Khan going hunting for Chinkaras – a protected species of deer. His crime is proven without doubt. And the justice system gives him some jail term. How does that help the Chinkara? How about this – ask Salman Khan to contribute 5 crore rupees to a Chinkara protection force and have him serve 3 months in a national park. That will help better the status of Chinkaras and give Salman Khan a path to reform. With each such reform judgment there is the potential to win the momentary criminal and turn him/her into a better human being. Since the “punishment” calls out to the goodness within each of us, people will come to love the idea of justice because it helps them become better humans.

Both Dutt and Khan are not criminals. They did not go murder someone in cold blood or rape someone or burn someone’s house. They are people like you and me who just happened to momentarily go astray.

Why do we call our code as Indian Penal Code? Look up the word ‘penal’ in a dictionary and this is what you get – “Having as its object the infliction of punishment, punitive; prescribing the punishment to be inflicted for an offence” – from the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. Does this sound like something nice? Not to me. Maybe we should have Indian Reform Code.

Am I wrong in sensing that since in India it is very hard to bring a true criminal to justice, the few people who get caught in our legal nets (and who are sometimes nice individuals) get treated to the anger and frustration of our society? At any given time, there must be a few thousand people in Bihar who carry illegal weapons. And they go around shooting people with these. And the government is fully aware of these people. So, what are we doing about them? Nothing. They kill, rape, burn for years and decades and nothing, absolutely nothing happens. But a Sanjay Dutt, gets caught and dragged. We vent all our anger on him. He is punished for being a nice person who made a mistake. Had he been a hardcore criminal, he would have gone scot-free.

Someone on NDTV was saying “the courts cannot be emotional” and I find it very funny. What is wrong about being nice and humane? Is emotion not an integral part of being human? Does that mean the courts are/should be inhuman? How can a momentary error become cause for years in jail? How are we going to account for the goodness done by an individual? If it is hard facts that courts live by, then let us get ALL the facts about an individual. Not just facts relating to a particular case against the individual. Because we will be punishing the person and not just a part of him/her. Let us account for every moment of goodness, every act of kindness that the accused has done. And then let us sum up the good and bad parts and let the result decide the nature and quantum of sentence.

If Sanjay Dutt has been a good citizen otherwise, has contributed to NGOs and has been kind and loving to people around him, then those are also FACTS which must be taken into consideration. Specially in a country like India, where it is particularly difficult to be nice and kind because the system does everything possible to make you angry and frustrated.

I vote for Sanjay Dutt to be set free. Because there are no facts that prove he is a danger to society (while some of our parliamentarians definitely are) and thus needs to be kept behind bars. Infact, sending him to jail is the only real crime in this case.

 

8 Responses to “Sanjay Dutt gets “Punishment””

  1. mightyestme Says:

    well, sanjay dutt commited a crime. and i am glad you accepted that. and your idea about a reformist judicial system puts too much trust into people. we have to be an eye for an eye society now, especially with a billion people out there ready to kill for your bread. so i am happy that they judge sent sanjay dutt to prison. i cannot comment on the term as i am not a lawyer.

    =
    “What is wrong about being nice and humane? Is emotion not an integral part of being human? Does that mean the courts are/should be inhuman? How can a momentary error become cause for years in jail? How are we going to account for the goodness done by an individual?”

    —Well its not wrong to be nice and humane but you just cannot trust people to right their wrongs. do you not agree that both sanjay dutt and salman khan are in contact with the underworld? does that not qualify them criminal elements? have you not seen the video in which jhonny lever and anil kapoor are with dawood? are you sure that sanjay dutt is clean since the gun possesions? it is basic human nature not to change and changing yourself and your basic instincts of survival are tough. I am happy that he is going to jail. Good riddence. Now we need a few more high profile arrests and jail sentences. I just hope his decision is not overthrown by the supreme court. if that happens then i am leaving india forever and i will be ashamed to call myself an Indian…

  2. gurdas Says:

    There is always a choice. I find that the mental cost of mistrusting people is far more than the cost of trusting people. When I trust, I run the risk of being cheated by some of them. But that is a very small price (which I am ready to pay) for the pleasure of receiving trust in return. It is not about letting your guard down. It is just that you keep the guard hidden, protect your back and give trust a chance. From the little that I have seen and experienced, I sincerely believe in the inherent goodness in most people. There are some who are evil and cannot be handled by ordinary souls like me. A truly great soul could probably inspire even these evil people to turn good. I look at that as reason to make myself better.

    My contest is never that Sanjay Dutt and other similar accused go scot-free. They must serve some sentence. It is just that the nature of the sentence could be better than stuffing them into a cell. It just needs some innovative thought.

    Here is a real story from an African nation struggling to protect its elephants from poachers. Since money was scarce, the park officials could not counter the threat from well equipped poachers. As a result they were losing elephant count rapidly. Then they came up with an idea that sounds grotesque but helped stem the losses. They invited rich people to hunt elephants at an exorbitant price. Out of say a population of 200 elephants, 20 were put-up for legal hunting. The money raised from this was used to protect the remaining 180.

    The justice system believes that it can let go a criminal but cannot punish an innocent. A very nice thought. How about adding to it: we will give every criminal an opportunity to turn good. Right now, we are possibly losing all these potential converts by our harsh judgments.

    What do you think would Sanjay Dutt choose if the judge were to give him the option of (1) 6 years in jail (2) build an orphanage and hospital and serve 6 months in social service?

    I bet he will choose option 2. And the society will be better off with the price Sanjay Dutt pays for his crime. Right now the price he pays does not benefit society. It just damages him. Such a loss I’d say.

    It is like we are interested only in revenge. We want to inflict pain and injury on the criminal. Even if there is no real benefit from our act. I find the idea barbaric and almost sadistic. That is not very different from what the criminal did in the first place. It is just that now the pain comes from a legal system we hold as holy.

    The underworld you mention is a fact known to the government for ages. Trace their history and you will find it is the government which allowed the underworld to exist and thrive. In the form of corrupt police, bureaucrats, and politicians who turned their eyes away from the nefarious activities of the underworld. Even clandestinely abetting the underworld. My point is the problems are complex and thus solutions cannot be linear. Dawood Ibrahim did not happen overnight. His very existence is proof of failure of government to protect its citizens. The government gave birth to Dawood. That, to me, is a larger crime than attending a party by Dawood. Who knows maybe these actors get life threatening calls and the only choice is to be either friends with Dawood or get shot? Again, failure of the government to protect its citizens. But, as I said earlier, the government never stands trial for such things. It always boils down to individuals who are left to fend for themselves. And the moment they make one small error, the same government comes rushing in, wielding a stick and says “criminal!”.

  3. Rajeev Dubey Says:

    Sanjay Dutt has asked for clemency and his request should be considered on the basis of his recent conduct in life as well as the nature of crime.

    Based on available information it looks he did violate the law but he did not harm anyone using the weapons that he acquired.

    Later on in his life, he did not further violate the law so far as the information is available in public. So, his is a genuine case for granting a full waiver OR converting the prison term into a social service plus routine reporting to the authorities for keeping a watch.

    Let us be kind and compassionate.

  4. gurdas Says:

    Then there is also the question of “punishment delayed is punishment multiplied”. Who takes responsibility for the decade of uncertainty and constant threat of imprisonment that Sanjay Dutt experienced?

    It is like the jailer coming up to a convict every morning and telling him “we will hang you today at 6pm”. Everyday the convict lives the horror of being hung. So, rather than going through the pain once, he goes through it a multiple times. Isn’t that more punishment than due?

    Coming back to the example of Sanjay Dutt, he surely did not spend the last 14 years as a normal person. With the sword of law always hanging above his head, I would say he lived half a life. He alone bears the cost of delayed justice. Without any reprieve. How are we going to account for this? Someone might say, that is the cost of how things work. I would say it is simply shirking away from our responsibilities. We are refusing to factor in the full complexity of crime and punishment. We do not want to make the effort and take the pain of walking the right path. The shortcut is easier and we choose it. Only that the true cost of this choice is borne by the convict.

    Stretching the idea further, one could also argue that a young Dutt was better equipped to bear the punishment. The law took more than reasonable time, Dutt got older, his responsibilities increased and so the punishment of 6 years effectively (for the convict) is no longer same as what it would have been 14 years ago.

  5. Farhat Says:

    We the friends in Pakistan are shocked.If the punishment had to come than why as late as now,when a teenage daugther faces the sorrow,humilation.10 yrs back she would not understand.
    Why can’t the ruling party which was served by Great DUTT and now his daughter sitting Congress MP can show clemency to Sanjay. We make special request to Sonia Gandhi and the President of India to get him the deserved clemency based on his good conduct.

    We pray for Sanjay.

  6. Sanjay M Says:

    How about Sanjay Dutt receiving a punishment that says “you will build an orphanage for children who lose their parents in riots and also build a hospital that attends to trauma patients”. That will benefit society, give Dutt a chance to reform, increase his love for society and increase society’s love and patience with people who are fundamentally good but just happen to commit an anomalous crime.

    Beautiful thoughts… hope some day our society evolves such that such ideas become reality…

    And these lines truly touched me…

    There are hundreds and thousands of such people in India who are not criminals but end up being jailed for years simply because out of the millions of moments in their lives, they lost control once.

  7. Sanjay M Says:

    This is a generic quote related to the discussion above [not concerned with Sanjay Dutt as I'm not familiar with all his details]

    “Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it” ~Henry Thomas Buckle

  8. nosaddicts Says:

    This is a classic form of a beautiful thing in countries:
    Stereotypicalisim.


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