Chandigarh, Aug 3: A Chandigarh-based non-government organisation Friday moved an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Maharashtra government, seeking information on how Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt was being allowed to smoke inside the prison.
The NGO - Burning Brain Society - has questioned how the Maharashtra government and prison authorities in the state were allowing Dutt access to cigarettes inside the prison when the law prohibits it. Dutt has been moved to Yerawada Jail to serve his six-year prison term in the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings case.
"Smoking does not come under the category of food or life-saving drugs. It is also not a source of entertainment or recreation that a convict should be allowed access to inside the jail," society president Hemant Goswami pointed out in his representation to the Maharashtra government.
Goswami's society had led an anti-smoking campaign in the city to get Chandigarh declared India's first 'smoke-free city' July 15. Smoking is now banned at all public places in the city.
The NGO said that instead of allowing Dutt to smoke, jail authorities should provide him medical advice and anti-nicotine patches or chewing gums to help him get rid of the addiction.
Goswami challenged Dutt's plea to a Mumbai court for probation from his jail term as he was working for cancer awareness.
"Someone who himself is addicted to cancer-causing tobacco should at least refrain from making such statements," he added.
PUNE: Cigarette smoking by actor-convict Sanjay Dutt, lodged at Yerawada prison, did not violate the jail rules governing the inmates, prison sources said on Monday.
Reacting to a media report, a Right to Information (RTI) activist has sought to know whether the actor was given a concession to smoke in jail premises, officials clarified that all inmates were entitled to the facility.
"All items that are kept in the jail canteen could be consumed freely by the inmates, cigarette being one of them", sources added.
Bollywood film star Sanjay Dutt was convicted for keeping arms and associating with people indulging in terrorism on July 31, 2007. He is to undergo an imprisonment of six years. Since the time Sanjay reached the prison, every media agency started reporting about the number of cigarettes he smoked. it was also reported that the prison authorities made cigarettes available to him in the prison. This is against the law.
BBS chairperson Hemant Goswami in a communication to Maharashtra government questions the decision to provide Sanjay Dutt cigarettes in the prison in violation to the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act. The communication sent on August 2, 2007 points out that smoking is not a constitutional right whereas breathing fresh air, free from toxins, is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 (Right to life).
Why should Sanjay Dutt be allowed to smoke in prison when the law prohibits it? Why there be special concession for him and why should the prison authorities bend rules for nicotine addiction of a convict? The Maharashtra government shall have to respond to these and more such questions which constitute part of a “Right to Information (RTI)” application filed by social organization, Burning Brain Society.
In an associated representation sent to the Maharashtra government, Hemant Goswami, the social activist credited with churning out India’s first smoke-free state, Chandigarh, has criticized the Maharashtra government for allowing smoking in the prisons. Hemant points out that tobacco does not come under the category of food or life saving drug and is was also not a source of entertainment and recreation, so there was no reason for the government to cater to anyone’s addictions. The representation reads, “The key ingredient in tobacco, “Nicotine,” has been identified as an addictive and poisonous drug having the same addictive properties as that of Cocaine and Heroin. It is so dangerous that 40-60 mg of Nicotine can kill any person. If an inmate suffers from Nicotine addition, instead of supplying him more tobacco (which is against the law), he should be treated in accordance with medical advice with Nicotine patches, Nicotine chewing gums and/or such like prescription under medical supervision.”
To the reports that Mr. Dutt smoked cigarettes due to stress, the letter points out that it was an erroneous belief that tobacco reduces stress; rather scientific studies have unambiguously concluded that tobacco consumption leads to hypertension. Nicotine has no medicinal property other than that of being used for de-addiction or as an insecticide. So if any person suffered from stress, the jail authorities should have provided medical help instead of providing tobacco which might further aggravate the situation.
Commenting on the claim of Sanjay Dutt in his probation application that he was working for cancer prevention cause, the representation states “No public health worker can ever have sympathetic view regarding Nicotine addiction suffered by film actors like Mr. Sanjay Dutt who on the one hand pretend to work on issues relating to Cancer and on the other hand they glamorize and promote smoking/tobacco in movies and thereby act as ambassadors of death, disease and disability caused by tobacco afflicted cancer, cardiovascular diseases and hundreds of such like serious ailments. As evident from many scientific studies, millions of youngsters have become addicted to tobacco by watching glamorised and unreal depiction of tobacco in movies by popular film stars like Sanjay Dutt, Amitab Bachchan, Ajay Devgan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, etc.”
Hemant said that smoking of tobacco was not a constitutional right whereas breathing air free from over 4000 poisonous gases in tobacco smoke is the fundamental right of every person. The Supreme Court of India (In Murli S. Deora vs. Union of Inida case) has recognised that this right was covered under Article 19 of the constitution, right to life, and everyone needs to be protected from passive smoke, be he a prisoner or a prison official.
The RTI petition has asked for detailed information in 18 paragraphs. The Maharashtra government is going to have tough time in justifying its decision to feed tobacco to Dutt in prison. “We will ensure that Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 is followed in tote in all prisons. Every prison in this country has to be smoke-free.” Goswami concluded.