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Bilkis Bano Case: Some Convicts Are More Privileged Than Others In Getting Parole, Says Supreme Court

Continuing to hear pleas against Gujarat government's decision to grant bail to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, the Supreme Court on Thursday observed that some convicts are more privileged of getting parole for many days, unlike other convicts. 

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Continuing to hear pleas against Gujarat government's decision to grant bail to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, the Supreme Court on Thursday observed that some convicts are "more privileged" of getting parole for many days, unlike other convicts. 

"We understand the concept of remission. This is well-accepted. But here, they (victim and others) are questioning this in the present case," a bench comprising justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan told senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for convict Ramesh Rupabhai Chandana. The bench asked the lawyer to assist it by providing judgements delivered on pleas challenging the grant of remission, saying that usually cases are filed against denial of such benefits by states. "There are some convicts who are more privileged in getting these benefits," the bench observed.

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Advocates Shobha Gupta and Vrinda Grover had earlier argued that their release on remission was unlawful as they had not served their default sentences. Grover specifically contended that their deliberate refusal to pay the fines, even after the Bombay High Court ordered the money to be compensated to the victim, demonstrated their lack of remorse, LiveLaw reported. 

Release of Bilkis Bano case convicts

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the horror of the communal riots that broke out after the Godhra train-burning incident. Seven of her family members were also killed by rioters. It was on August 15 2022, when the 11 convicts accused of raping Bilkis Bano and slaughtering her family, walked out of jail after being granted bail under a remission policy. 

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Addressing the bench's concerns, advocate Luthra said that every individual sentenced to life imprisonment is also given a chance for rehabilitation. When a judicial decision determines that life imprisonment is the appropriate punishment, the possibility of rehabilitation should not be dismissed solely because the crime was heinous, he argued.

The top court had on August 17 said state governments should not be selective in granting remission to convicts and the opportunity to reform and reintegrate with society should be given to every prisoner, as it told the Gujarat government which defended its decision of premature release of all 11 convicts. The court will resume hearing on the pleas on September 20.

"How far this rule -- giving a chance to hardened criminals to reform -- by releasing them after 14 years is being applied to other prisoners? Why is the policy being applied selectively? Opportunity to reform and reintegrate should be given to all. How far is this being implemented? Why are our prisons overflowing? Give us data," the court said.

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