In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court overturned the premature release of 11 convicts involved in the heinous 2002 Gujarat communal riots, including those responsible for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano. The court’s decision stemmed from a finding that the State of Gujarat lacked the authority to grant remission due to the trial being conducted in Maharashtra.

Justice BV Nagarathna, leading the division bench, invoked Plato’s curative theory of punishment, emphasizing the purpose of penalties for reformation, not vengeance. The judgment weighed the rights of victims against the convicts’ entitlement to a second chance, focusing on the gravity of crimes against women and the concept of justice.

The court addressed five pivotal issues in its ruling:

1. Maintainability of Bano’s Petition: The bench upheld the petition filed by Bilkis Bano under Article 32 of the Constitution, dismissing arguments against its acceptance.

2. Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Petitions: The court avoided ruling on the PILs’ maintainability, considering Bano’s petition sufficient for consideration.

3. Competency of the Gujarat Government: The court highlighted the importance of the convicting state’s jurisdiction in deciding remission, quashing Gujarat’s orders due to procedural irregularities and non-compliance with prior judgments.

4. Compliance with Legal Procedures: The court criticized the Gujarat government for overstepping its authority and breaching the rule of law by granting remission without proper adherence to legal norms.

5. Impact of Nullifying Remission: The judgment highlighted the delicate balance between upholding the rule of law and convicts’ personal liberty, stressing the need to restore the status quo ante and emphasizing the role of constitutional courts in preserving justice.

Advocate Shobha Gupta, representing Bilkis Bano, argued against the convicts’ premature release, citing the severity of the crimes and their communal nature. She emphasized the lack of remorse and societal repercussions of granting leniency to such offenders.

Various public interest litigants, including Subhashini Ali, Rooplekha Verma, and Indira Jaising, challenged the Gujarat government’s decision, pointing out flaws in the remission policy’s application, lack of remorse shown by the convicts, and failure to consider pertinent factors.

The State of Gujarat defended its decision, asserting adherence to the remission policy and advocating for convicts’ reformation and reintegration into society. However, the Supreme Court raised questions about the selective application of remission policies across different regions and the overcrowding of jails with undertrials.

The judgment underscored the barbarity of the crimes committed during the riots, where Bilkis Bano was gang-raped, and her family members were brutally murdered. It questioned the appropriateness of leniency for convicts involved in such heinous acts.

The Supreme Court’s verdict upheld the importance of adhering to legal procedures, especially in cases of serious crimes against humanity. It rejected the Gujarat government’s decision and emphasized the need to restore justice by sending the convicts back to prison.

The case, emanating from the tragic events of 2002, resurfaced as a pivotal moment, focusing on the judiciary’s role in ensuring justice and balancing the rights of victims and convicts in society’s pursuit of the rule of law.

Leave a Comment

× Need legal help?