SC on Bilkis Bano case: How could convicts be released, Gujarat govt asked
The Supreme Court, which is considering many petitions over the premature release of the individuals convicted of raping Bilkis Bano and killing her family during the 2002 riots, posed some challenging questions to the Gujarat government . According to the SC Bench, the Gujarati government is on “thin ice” if it decides to give an early release from remission.
“The death sentence for the defendants was changed to life in prison. In light of the circumstances, how could they be released after serving 14 years? Why isn’t the relief of release extended to other prisoners? The Bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan questioned why just these criminals in this case received the benefits of the scheme.
How broadis this rule—which gives convicted felons a chance to change by releasing them after 14 years—applied to other prisoners? Why is the policy only being used occasionally? It is important to offer everyone the chance to change and reintegrate. How far has this been put into practice? Why are our jails and prisons crowded? Give us data, the court required.
The court also demanded information from the state after asking why the Jail Advisory Committee for Bilkis offenders was established. It further questioned why the Godhra court’s view was required given that the trial was not held there.
The 11 guys who were freed on Independence Day last year received sentences from a Maharashtra court. The state had asked the court who found them guilty if they should be released, and the judge had responded negatively.
As it was believed that a fair trial would not be possible in a state that had a wave of unrest in 2002 following the killing of 59 Kar Sevaks in the burning Sabarmati, the hearing in the case was moved from Gujarat to Maharashtra.
It is challenging to respond to the court’s general questions, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju said on behalf of the Gujarat government. However, he informed the court that all the states must provide specific information in a matter that is currently before the Supreme Court.
He said that the law had been followed in releasing the criminals. They had to be taken into account under the 1992 policy because they were found guilty in 2008.
After the top court instructed the state to decide on the appeal of a single convict, the convicts were released based on an out-of-date policy after consulting a panel that comprised men connected to the BJP, which is currently in power.
The Bench had contested an earlier Supreme Court order during the most recent session.
The court asked how the previous order was passed on a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) and it should have been an appeal against the order of the Bombay High Court.
Bilkis Bano’s lawyer Shobha Gupta said the Gujarat government’s decision on the release of the convicts is wrong.