On Sanjay Dutt, Yerwada jail has a lot to explain

Written by Sunanda Mehta | sunandamehta | Updated: Dec 31 2013, 16:53pm hrs
So Sanjay Dutt is out of prison once again for the second time in three months. The authorities involved police and jail officials who forward the request file after adding their own reports, and the divisional commissioner who signs the final approval have refuted allegations of any preferential treatment meted out to the star or tweaking of rules for his benefit. They have been particularly emphatic about how Sanjay Dutt is being treated like any other prisoner. But while the first two claims may hold some water, they have a lot of explaining to do on the latter.

Ever since the Bollywood star arrived at Yerwada Central Jail in May this year to serve his time in an Arms Act conviction, controversy has dogged him.

While the actors move to the prison had understandably been executed in complete secrecy, his every move there from the cell he was lodged in to his first meal in jail, his behaviour with fellow prisoners to the visits of his family members, and the paper bags he was assigned to make has made its way to local dailies.

However the icing on the cake was prison authorities roping in Sanjay Dutt to participate in a fundraising cultural programme in September, to be held in a city auditorium, selling the tickets at Rs 1,000 each. The show was sold out. The day before the event, photographs were splashed in the media of Sanjay Dutts Munnabhai director Rajkumar Hirani visiting the jail and helping out with the final rehearsals.

The next day, hours before the show was to be held, it was called off, citing security concerns. The money collected to the tune of Rs 5 lakh was refunded. That rules had been skirted was evident from the internal inquiry ordered by ADG, Prisons, on Hiranis presence in the jail.

By then Sanjay Dutt was home on a 15-day furlough, which was extended by another two weeks on medical grounds. He returned on October 30 and, five weeks later, was granted a months parole, for which he left on December 21. This allows him to spend Christmas and New Year at home. The reason for the grant of this leave was his wifes ill health a claim that has been questioned.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil said they would investigate charges that Sanjay Dutt was being served liquor in jail.

Still, if jail authorities want to be believed that the actor is like any other prisoner for them, they will get a chance when Dutt returns to Yerwada on January 22. During a year a prisoner can avail of both parole and furlough only once, though the parole can be extended by another 60 days in an emergency. Will Dutt get that concession too Lets wait and see.

Sunanda is Resident Editor, Pune