Supreme Court: In batch of pleas against the pre-mature release of 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment, who had gang raped Bilkis Bano and murdered her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots, the division bench of KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna, JJ. while asking for the cogent reasons for granting remission to the 11 convicts, said that because Central Government concurred with the State Government’s decision that does not mean the State Government is not required to apply its mind.
The Court noted that in its previous order it directed the Union of India as well as the State of Gujarat to be ready with the relevant files regarding the grant of remission to the convicts.
The Court enquired from the Gujarat Government about the reasons behind its decision to allow premature release of 11 convicts in this case. Further, it remarked that when remission is given in such heinous crimes which are affecting the public at large, the clemency power must be exercised by considering public interest and the gravity of offence.
The Court said that the question is whether the government has applied its mind and what material formed its decision while ordering the remission, as the judicial order required the convicts to be in jail for the rest of their lives, but they were released by an executive order.
The Court remarked that “today it is Bilkis Bano, tomorrow it can be you or me”, further it said that there needs to be an objective standard and if the reasons are not provided then the Court will draw its own conclusions.
The Central and Gujarat Governments informed the Court that they may file a review against the 27-03-2023 order that directed them to present files relating to the remission. However, it is not yet finally decided whether the petition seeking review should be filed or not.
The matter will next be taken up on 02-05-2023.