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Bilkis Bano Case Convicts and the Remission Laws- UPSC Current Affairs
Aug 23, 2022
In today's edition of our Current Affairs, we will talk about the Bilkis Bano Case Convicts and the Remission Laws. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.
For Prelims: Remission Powers, Prison state subject
Every saint has the past, every sinner has a future. One the eve of Independence, many prisoners, including the convicts of heinous crimes such as murder and rape, were released as part of the special remission granted by the stated. Critically analyze such special remission drives.
Recently, a committee formed by the Gujarat government released all 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, as the committee relied on its old remission policy of 1992 instead of the current policy of 2014.
About Remission and the Laws Governing it
The Prison Act of 1894 defines remission as the system of “rules for the time being in force regulating the award of marks to, and the consequent shortening of sentences of, prisoners in jail”.
Prison is a subject under the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, and its management and administration fall under State governments.
The laws for remission are basically, the State’s efforts to reform criminal justice and protect human rights.
As per law, there are three kinds of remissions viz constitutional, statutory, and those earned in accordance with jail manuals.
Article 72 of the Constitution, empowers the President to grant remission, whereas Article 161 grants similar power to the Governor.
Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure empowers the ‘appropriate government’ to suspend or remit the sentence of a prisoner.
Section 433Aof the Code of Criminal Procedure states that a prisoner, found guilty of an offense punishable with death and whose death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment under Section 433 shall not be released before 14 years.
Section 435of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that in cases investigated by the Delhi Special Police Establishment, or by any agency that has investigated an offense under a Central Act other than the CrPC, the States have to act in consultation with the Central government.
In D. Krishna Kumar vs State of Telangana, the HC ruled that, before deciding on the remission plea, the appropriate authority “may” also seek the opinion of the presiding judge of the court where the sentence was passed, as to whether the application should be granted or refused, together with his reasons for such opinion.
About the Bilkis Bano Case
During the post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat, in 2002, 21 years and five months pregnant Bilkis Bano was brutally gang-raped during her attempt to flee along with her relatives.
The mob that attacked her killed her three-year-old daughter and 14 other members of her family.
The mob left her naked and unconscious as they thought that she was dead, however, Bilkis Bano survived to fight against the cruelty she faced.
Bilkis tried to get the local police to file her complaint, but they refused and when an FIR was finally filed, it allegedly omitted crucial details.
She then approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and moved to the Supreme Court.
All the accused were arrested when the SC ordered a CBI probe into the case, in December 2003.
The trial was then moved to Mumbai and it took four years for the trial court to find that 13 of the 20 accused were guilty.
The court ordered 11 accused life sentences for their heinous crimes, 7 others were acquitted for want of evidence and the cop who refused to file FIR was imprisoned for 3 years.
In May 2017, the Bombay High Court upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of all 11 and quashed the acquittal of seven others.
Release of the Rape-Murder Convicts
Earlier this year, the remission plea of one of the convicts was dismissed by the Gujarat High court, on the grounds that the application should have been filed in the place where the trial had been conducted.
In the remission plea, the convict cited 1992 circular, which was also quoted in a 2012 Gujarat HC order.
Remission Policy of 1992:
As per this policy, the convicts who on and after 18.12.1978 have served out 14 clear years imprisonment, can be allowed premature release.
It doesn’t explicitly define the nature of the crime to be considered while deciding on a remission plea.
Later the convict urged the SC to admit the plea, as he had undergone a sentence of more than 15 years without remission, as of April 1, 2022.
The SC while admitting the plea, ruled that:
It was the competency of the state, to examine the remission plea since the crime had occurred there.
Also after the conclusion of the trial and passing of the judgment, all further proceedings have to be taken in the State where the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded.
The apex court also directed the State to consider the application for premature release under the “policy dated 9th July 1992 which was existing at the time of his conviction”.
It has been noted that in the case of the State of Haryana vs. Jagdish that the application for a grant of premature release will have to be considered based on the policy existing on the date of conviction.
Formation of the Committee:
Following the decision by the SC, a committee was formed by the Gujarat government.
The committee relied on the 1992 policy, also the remission was granted after taking into consideration prisoners “age, nature of the crime, behavior in prison.”
The panel “unanimously” decided on the remission of those convicted and forwarded its recommendations to the State Home Department.
The State accepted the recommendation and allowed the release.
Thus all the 11 convicts were released on August 15, from the Godhra sub-jail where they were serving their sentence.
Concerns and Public Outrage
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Independence, the Ministry of Home Affairs had instructed the States and the Union Territories to grant special remission to 12 categories of prisoners, which included “prisoners convicted for the offense of rape”.
The committee decision not only triggered public outrage but also pointed out the shortcomings and inconsistencies of remission policies.
1992 remission policy does not mention the nature of the crime. Whereas, under the Remission policy of 2014 norms, a person convicted of gang rape and murder cannot be released prematurely.
The decision of remission violates the Center’s latest guidelines on remission.
It is also claimed in defense of the Gujarat government decision, that the guidelines did not apply in the Bilkis Bano case since the SC had directed the State to take into account the 1992 policy.