Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sanjay Dutt and the "Equality Before Law"

In India, there is this hugely successful actor called Sanjay Dutt. I am not a fan, and therefore know little about his biographical details.

At the moment, he has been given a 6 year sentence for his involvement in the Mumbai blasts. Some people think its unfair, because his public life has been spotless all these years, and there really is no justification to send him behind bars again. Some others think that justice has been done, and just because he is a much loved public figure, he should not be condoned by the legal system.

Central to this entire debate, imho, is the axiom that All Men are Equal before Law.

It is this axiom that one would like to challenge.

Why should all men be equal before law? The usual answer is, so no one receives an unfair favor.

But that axiom assumes that each act of the person must be viewed in isolation. That is like looking at one piece of a jigsaw puzzle, and taking a decision that will impact the entire picture. How is that logical?

My contention is this - not just for Sanjay Dutt, but for everyone, their position in a legal system should be a function of, not just an isolated act, but, (at the very least), their entire criminal history (or lack thereof).

It is not about Sanjay Dutt. Sanjay Dutt is, again, a metaphor we can use to examine axioms that we do not question. While we are at it, Why do we not question axioms?


The Phosgene Kid said...

We have "Hollywood justice" here. There is a two tier justice system, one for the rich and famous and one for the rest of us schnooks.

Another dodge is to blame it on drugs, alcohol, or an abusive relationship and escape jail time by going into a clinic to dry out. Once again this get of jail free card is only for the famous.

EXSENO said...

I can,t really say much about this man and what he has done. I know nothing about him. It wouldn't be fair for me to comment on what he has done or not done.
I do have to agree with The Phosgene Kid, I think the system of justice all around the world same. Unfair.

I think it is quite a coincidence that I should find him as the main subject of your post.
I saw him for the first time last week in a movie that titled Mission Kashmir.

adi said...

i wud also like u to visit aditi's blog for a take on this...

Something to Say said...

Your question reminds me of this fable - some attribute to Birbal and Akbar and some to Ram, when he was a king. A priest, a merchant and a common thief together commit the same crime. The priest is sent to death - why? because as a man of knowledge he ought to have known better, the merchant is given a tough sentence and the common thief a lighter one with some vocational training. While the law is the same - it was applied differently to different people. And it was seen as just.
As far as Sanjay Dutt goes, as someone who has seen the worst of the Bombay riots - I can understand why he wanted the gun. And yet, I dont want him to go scot free - just because he is a star...
This is one issue - one can have moral debates on till eternity...
Sorry for the long comment tho :)

(¯`•._.•[Raaji]•._.•´¯) said...

frankly, i do not agree with you.
Just because a person has a long criminal history doesn't allow us to hang him because he stole something again and similarly it doesn't allow us to set a person free just because it was his first time stealing.

Bla said...

Its normal in such cases people to be prejudiced... However, I think it's more important people to be wide awake.

Bla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
How do we know said...

Hi PG: I really like that one.. to blame it on drugs, alcohol, "circumstances" during childhood and to go scot free. That is something I am yet to understand.

Hi exseno: " I think the system of justice all around the world same. Unfair." :-)
Mission Kashmir? I'd almost forgotten that he was in that film! Nice movie, though.

Hi adi: And the url of Aditi's blog is.... Please!

Hi Something to say: So true!! I think this story pretty much puts the essenece of what I was trying to say. Only, i wouldn't let the common theif go away with a vocational training alone. I would put him under observation until one was fairly certain of his using that vocational trng. ;-)

And i loved the long comment.

Hi Raaji: When you put it that way, i don't agree with myself either.

My point was closer to the story of Something to say , in the comment just above yours. Actually, without mixing things further, my comment was only that we cannot look at one isolated incident and take a decision about a person's sentence. The whole picture should be considered, in context, and then a sentence arrived at. AND, i do NOT favor giving people special consideration for bad childhoods, poor circumstances and addiction and the like. Why? That's for another post.

Hi bla: Will have to agree with you there.. prejudice is very natural. Not just in a celebrity case, but in any case, methinks.

The Phosgene Kid said...

You have to take criminal records into account. If someone is a career criminal you need to take steps to end that career. I am a big fan of the three strikes and you are out law. We've had several high profile criminal cases here and each one involved had along sordid history. One bite and they put a dog down, but a human can bite many times before anyone stops him.

Neihal said...

I agree totally

The Phosgene Kid said...

Free Sanjay!!!

How do we know said...

Hi PG:
"One bite and they put a dog down, but a human can bite many times before anyone stops him. " So True!

Hi Neihal: Thanks!