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18th August 2022 (9 Topics)

Remission without reform: On the release of 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano case


Eleven men, convicted to life imprisonment for gang-raping Bilkis Bano and murdering her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots, walked out of Godhra sub-jail after a panel approved their application for remission.

About Bilkis Bano Case:

  • The accused in the case were arrested in 2004 and the trial began in Ahmedabad. Later, the apex court transferred the case to Mumbai.
  • On 21 January 2008, the Special CBI Court sentenced 11 accused to life imprisonment on the charges of conspiring to rape a pregnant woman, murder and unlawful assembly under the Indian Penal Code.
  • In 2019, the Supreme Court awarded compensation of 50 lakh to Bilkis — the first such order in a case related to the 2002 riots.

What are the areas of concern?

  • Against Rule of Law: It is illegal as the terms of the convicts seem to have been remitted without the required consultation with the Union government.
  • As Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure makes consultation with the Centre mandatory.
  • Overruled the Supreme Court: One of the convicts had obtained an order from the Supreme Court in May 2022, under which Gujarat, the State in which the crime occurred, was held to be the appropriate government to consider his premature release.
  • Violating Remission norms: The crimes such as Rape and Murder should not be included under remission.
  • As the life sentence normally means that a convict has to spend the natural life in prison.
  • The Cr.P.C. permits premature release in the form of remission or commutation, but it should be based on a legal and constitutional scheme, and not on one’s discretion.

What is remission?

  • Remission implies reducing the period of a sentence without changing its character
  • Indian laws provide pardoning power sourcing from statutory and constitutional authorities.
  •  Sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with the provisions of Remission.
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