“Bilkis Today, Tomorrow…” Supreme Court Slams Gujarat Government For Remission Of Convicts
The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the Gujarat government for granting remission to 11 life convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. The bench of Justices K M Joseph and B V Nagarathna said that the gravity of the offence could have been considered by the state.
Justice K M Joseph said, “When you exercise power, it has to be for the public good. Especially in this case because crimes are committed against the community… What is the message you are sending? Will you compare a case of murder of a single person with that of 14 helpless people… Like you cannot compare apples with oranges, massacre cannot be compared with a single murder.”
The Centre and the Gujarat government will most likely file a plea seeking a review of the Supreme Court’s order asking them to be ready with original files on the grant of remission to the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.
The government, citing “privilege”, has indicated it does not want to produce the documents connected with the remission of the sentence of 11 convicts in the case. Additional Solicitor General S V Raju submitted on the government’s behalf.
Justice Joseph retorted, “If you don’t show us the files, then we will draw our conclusion. What is the problem with showing us the files today? You’re in contempt if you haven’t produced it. What is the difficulty?”
During the hearing, the bench also questioned the extent of parole given to the convicts. “Look at the records, one of them was granted parole for 1,000 days, that is three years; the other 1,200 days and the third is for 1,500 days. What policy have you (Gujarat Government) been following? It is not a simple case of Section 302 (murder).”
“The question is whether the government applied its mind and what material formed the basis of its decision to grant remission,” the Supreme Court said. “Today it is Bilkis but tomorrow it can be anyone. It may be you or me,” it added.
“The power of the state government to grant remission is not amenable for judicial review unless manifestly arbitrary. But it should be proportional to the crime,” the bench also observed.
Bano has challenged the remission of the sentence of 11 convicts in the case. All 11 convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government and released on August 15 last year.
On March 27, the Supreme Court termed the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case and the murder of her family members a “horrendous” act and questioned the Gujarat government whether uniform standards, as followed in other cases of murder, were applied while granting remission to the 11 convicts.
Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing from the riots that occurred following the Godhra train burning incident.