Explained: Why the 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano gangrape case walked out of jail

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Source: The post is based on the article “Explained: Why the 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano gangrape case walked out of jail” published in Indian Express on 17th August 2022.

What is the News?

The Gujarat government has released 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano murder and gangrape case of 2002 under its remission and premature release policy.

About the law on Remission

The word remission of a sentence is used to refer to a reduction in the duration of the sentence imposed while the nature of the sentence remains untouched.

Under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution, the President and Governors have the power to pardon, and suspend, remit, or commute a sentence passed by the courts.

What is the statutory Power of Remission?

Since Prisons is a State Subject, state governments have powers under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to remit sentences. However, Section 433A of the CrPC puts certain restrictions on these powers of remission. It says 

“Where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed on conviction of a person for an offence for which death is one of the punishments provided by law, or where a sentence of death imposed on a person has been commuted under Section 433 into one of imprisonment for life, such person shall not be released from prison unless he had served at least fourteen years of imprisonment”.

What are the grounds for remission?

States set up a Sentence Review Board to exercise the powers under Section 432 of the CrPC. The Supreme Court has held that states cannot exercise the power of remission arbitrarily, and must follow due process.

In ‘Laxman Naskar v. Union of India’(2000) the SC laid down five grounds on which remission is considered: (a) Whether the offence is an individual act of crime that does not affect society; (b) Whether there is a chance of the crime being repeated in future; (c) Whether the convict has lost the potentiality to commit the crime; (d) Whether any purpose is being served in keeping the convict in prison; and (e) Socio-economic conditions of the convict’s family.

When are prisoners usually released in remission?

Prisoners are often released on the birth and death anniversaries of prominent leaders and other important occasions. 

For example, to mark Independence Day, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines to states to grant special remission for prisoners who have completed at least half their sentence — women and transgender prisoners above the age of 50, male convicts above the age of 60 and terminally ill convicts among others.

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