Two days back I received an email from Shagufta, daughter of Zaibunnisa, who was a co-accused in the bomb blast case, and was convicted under section 3(3) and 6 of TADA and sentenced by the Supreme Court to 5 years imprisonment. Shagufta requested that I should appeal for pardon for her mother too, just as I had done for Sanjay Dutt.
I do not make appeals for pardon lightly,without carefully studying all the relevant material and without being satisfied that the case deserves pardon. That is why it took me two days studying the case of Zaibunnisa, and now I have come to the firm conclusion that she deserves pardon, for which I will be soon issuing an appeal to the President of India/Governor of Maharashtra.
My reasons are twofold :
(1) Zaibunnisa is a 70 year old widow with various ailments. She had a kidney operation some time back, and has to be screened every 6 months. She can hardly walk. I do not think she will survive for long in jail.
(2) Even on merits I am of the opinion that she deserves pardon. Paragraph 125 of the Supreme Court judgment states that she is not guilty of the main charge of conspiracy. The only charge on which she has been convicted is taking into possession some prohibited weapons. The only evidence in support of this charge is the retracted confession of co-accused Manzoor Ahmed Sayed. It was not disputed that no recovery of any weapon was made from her house.
In my respectful opinion she should at least have been given the benefit of doubt. In these circumstances I have decided to appeal to the President of India as well as the Governor of Maharashtra (since there is a controversy who is the appropriate authority) to pardon Zaibunnisa and Sanjay Dutt.
Some people have said that many others will also appeal for pardon. My reply is that I am willing to consider every case which is brought to my notice, but I will make an appeal only if after carefully studying the relevant material I am satisfied that the case deserves pardon. And I make no distinction between a celebrity and non celebrity