It was a 30-year-old vada pav seller Pradeep Bhalekar who filed the PIL in the Mumbai High Court against Sanjay Dutt. Bhalekar was once arrested under MCOCA and has himself served more than 4 years in prison.
It was because of his petition that Bombay high court asked the Maharashtra government to justify why his sentence was reduced on the basis of good behavior, and what constitutes good behavior. Sanjay Dutt was booked under TADA for 5 years, but last year he was let off 8 months earlier.
During the hearing, High Court asked a couple of pertinent questions.
“Was the DIG, Prisons, consulted or did the jail superintendent directly send his recommendation to the governor?” and “Also, how did the authorities assess that Dutt’s conduct was good? When did they get the time to make such assessment when he was out on parole half the time?”
Bhalekar claims that he has now turned into a Gandhian and he works towards exposing the bias towards rich and influential people in jails.
Bhalekar regrets his criminal past now and says that it was poverty that drove him towards crime. He says he was in a bad company earlier and was arrested just before his class 10th examinations. He opposed pitiable conditions of the slums, which turned many people against him. Even his family and friends turned against him once due to his life of crime. He was arrested twice under MCOCA.
Currently, he is writing a book on the living conditions inside the jails. He often says that he was the first person to start Gandhigiri inside jails.