New Delhi,UPDATED: Aug 10, 2023 23:53 IST
The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that the reintegration of an accused into society is a constitutional right. The court made the observations while hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the premature release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape case.
In the hearing, the top court’s bench led by Justice BV Nagarathna observed that remission, as provided under Articles 161 and 72 of the Constitution, is a statutory right.
The observation was made when counsel appearing for one of the petitioners argued that remission can be entertained while exercising constitutional powers by the executive, but cannot be sought as a right.
Advocate Nizam Pasha, appearing for one of the petitioners, further argued that while considering the application for remission, public interest must be considered.
In the hearing, the state of Gujarat and the 11 convicts who were granted early release on remission in the Bilkis Bano case questioned the maintainability of the Public Interest Litigations (PIL) filed before the Supreme Court challenging the early release of the convicts. They also challenged the locus standi of the petitioners.
The court today heard arguments on behalf of these petitioners with regard to why their PILs are maintainable. In the hearing, senior counsel Vrinda Grover, appearing for one of the petitioners, argued that the remission orders were arbitrary and malafide, and the convicts had committed a crime against women even when they were out on parole.
Vrinda Grover also highlighted that remission was granted through non-speaking orders, without application of mind, and despite there being evidence of recidivism.
Appearing before the top court on behalf of another one of the petitioners, senior advocate Indira Jaisingh remarked that the state of Gujarat granted remission to the convicts instead of protecting the rights of women and children.
According to the counsel, the crime committed against Bilkis Bano cannot be looked at in isolation from the sectarian and communal violence that had engulfed the state of Gujarat in the 2002 riots.
While commenting on the remission policy in Gujarat, Jaising stated that the policy remains mum on the categories of crimes where remission is to be granted, and there was a complete absence policy in place.
Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang raped while fleeing from the 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out after the Godhra train-burning incident. Her three-year-old daughter was among seven family members killed in the riots.