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Supreme Court Verdict on Bilkis Bano Case

Context:

The Supreme Court has struck down the remission granted by the Gujarat government to 11 convicts, who are out of jail, in the Bilkis Bano case. The apex court directed these convicts to report to jail authorities within two weeks.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Supreme Court Verdict on Bilkis Bano Case Convicts’ Release
  2. Remission: A Legal Overview
  3. Bilkis Bano Case Overview and Controversial Release of Convicts

Supreme Court Verdict on Bilkis Bano Case Convicts’ Release

Background:

  • In the case of 11 convicts involved in raping Bilkis Bano and killing her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Gujarat government’s decision to release them faced Supreme Court scrutiny.
Key Highlights of the Judgment:
  • The Gujarat government lacked authority to pass the remission order as the trial took place in Maharashtra, rendering the exemption order incompetent.
  • Criminals can only be released by the state where they are tried, making the Gujarat government’s action inappropriate.
  • The bench ruled that the SC order of May 13, 2022, allowing remission, was obtained through fraud and suppression of facts.
  • The Gujarat government should have filed a plea for a review of the 2022 order, acknowledging their lack of competence.
  • The Supreme Court criticized its own May 2022 judgment, stating there cannot be concurrent jurisdiction of two State governments on remission.
  • Premature release of convicts should align with the policy of the State where the crime occurred, leading to the application of Gujarat’s remission policy in this case.
  • Emphasizing the preservation of the rule of law despite potential consequences, the verdict underscores the need for legal integrity.

Remission: A Legal Overview

About Remission

  • Complete ending of a sentence at a reduced point.
  • Different from furlough and parole, involving a reduction in the sentence, not a break from prison life.
Constitutional Provisions
  • Both the President and the Governor have been vested with sovereign power of pardon by the Constitution.
  • Under Article 72, the President can grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment or suspend, remit or commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence
    • in all cases where the punishment or sentence is by a court Martial;
    • in all cases where the punishment or sentence is for an offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the Union extends;
    • in all cases where the sentence is a sentence of death
  • Under Article 161, a Governor can grant pardons, reprieves, respites or remissions of punishment, or suspend, remit or commute the sentence.
Statutory Power of Remission
  • Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) governs remission due to the State Subject nature of prisons.
  • Upcoming Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha (Second) Sanhita aims to replace CrPC.
  • Section 432 enables the ‘appropriate government’ to suspend or remit a sentence, wholly or partly, with or without conditions.
  • Section 433 permits the commutation of any sentence by the appropriate government, providing the authority to release prisoners before completing their terms.
Guidelines for Remission
  • Supreme Court’s ‘Laxman Naskar v. Union of India’ (2000) case established five grounds for considering remission:
    • Nature of the offence as an individual crime.
    • Likelihood of the crime being repeated.
    • Loss of potentiality for future criminal acts by the convict.
    • Purpose served by keeping the convict in prison.
    • Socio-economic conditions of the convict’s family.
  • Life sentence convicts can seek remission after serving a minimum of 14 years.

Bilkis Bano Case Overview and Controversial Release of Convicts

Background:

  • In the aftermath of the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat, Bilkis Bano and her family faced a brutal attack, with Bilkis being gang-raped and seven family members murdered.
  • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Supreme Court intervened, leading to a CBI investigation. Due to threats, the trial was shifted to Mumbai.

Legal Proceedings:

  • In January 2008, a Mumbai CBI court sentenced 11 accused to life imprisonment for the heinous crimes.

Release of Convicts:

  • In 2022, convict Radheshyam Shah moved the SC for early release after serving 15 years and four months. The SC delegated the case to the Gujarat government.
  • Gujarat, following its 1992 remission policy, released all 11 convicts on August 15, 2022.
  • The release triggered public outrage and opposition petitions, questioning the decision.

Review Petition by Bilkis Bano:

  • Bilkis Bano filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the Gujarat government’s decision to release the 11 gangrape convicts.
  • The recent judgment, responding to Bano’s appeal, addresses the controversy surrounding the convicts’ premature release.

-Source: The Hindu


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