A major controversy has erupted over granting parole to actor Sanjay Dutt which will allow him to leave prison for a second time in a little over a month with protests outside Pune's Yerawada Jail forcing the government to order an inquiry.
Pune Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh had yesterday granted parole to the actor, undergoing the remainder of his five-year jail term for possessing illegal firearms, part of a cache of weapons meant to be used during the 1993 blasts, on the recommendation of prison authorities.
Dutt, 53, had availed of a month-long leave of furlough on medical grounds and was back in jail on October 30.
Dutt had reportedly cited his wife Manyata's illness for seeking parole this time.
However, newspapers this morning published photographs of Manyata purportedly attending the screening of a film as also a celebrity birthday party, raising questions about Dutt's claim regarding her illness.
Taking note of the controversy, Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil has ordered an inquiry to ascertain the basis for granting parole to the Bollywood star.
"The parole has been granted by the Divisional Commissioner. We are looking into the matter and have sought documents which formed the basis for allowing his release on parole," Patil told reporters.
Angry at alleged "favouritism" being shown towards Dutt, activists of the Republican Party of India staged a demonstration in front of the Yerawada Central Jail.
Waving black flags and shouting slogans condemning the prison administration for showing "undue favours" to the Bollywood star, they demanded cancellation of parole.
"We will organise a jail bharo agitation in Maharashtra if Dutt is granted undue relief and given special treatment as he is supposed to be treated the same way like other convicts," a spokesman for the demonstrators said.
A lawyer representing Pervez Shaikh, one of the convicts in the 1993 serial blasts case whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court and who is also lodged in Yerawada prison, deprecated the move, saying authorities were taking advantage of discretionary powers.
"While I am not being allowed to meet Pervez Shaikh for seeking further instructions, Sanjay Dutt, who has been convicted for conspiracy and under arms act is allowed to leave jail on grounds of his wife's ill health," he told TV channels outside Yerawada Jail.
"The authorities have discretionary powers and they are taking advantage of those discretionary powers," he said.
A daughter of Zebunnisa Qazi, also convicted in the case, lamented that despite her mother's old age and frail health, her application for parole made in July had been rejected.
"My mother is over 70 year old. She should get parole now as other people are getting it on normal medical grounds. My case is much more serious as my grandmother is 90 years old and waiting to see her daughter. I hope authorities will be much more lenient this time," she said, adding a fresh application for parole has been made recently.
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