New Delhi: The Supreme Court has raised concerns about the parole granted to 11 convicts while they were serving their prison sentences. The Court suggested that the seriousness of their crimes should have been taken into account by the state authorities when deciding whether to grant them parole.
On Tuesday, the Government of India and the Gujarat state government informed the Supreme Court that they are considering the possibility of submitting a request for a review of the Court’s March 27th directive. This directive had instructed them to keep the original files related to the granting of remission to the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case ready for inspection.
The justice K M Joseph and B V suggested that the state should have taken into account the severity of their crimes when deciding whether to grant them parole.
“A pregnant woman was gang-raped and several people were killed. You cannot compare victim’s case with standard section 302 (murder) cases. Like you cannot compare apples with oranges, similarly massacre cannot be compared with single murder. Crimes are generally committed against society and the community. Unequals cannot be treated equally,” the bench said.
“The question is whether government applied its mind and what material formed the basis of its decision to grant remission,” the bench said, adding, “Today it is Bilkis but tomorrow it can be anyone. It may be you or me. If you do not show your reasons for grant of remission, then we will draw our own conclusions.”
The panel of judges scheduled the set of petitions that dispute the remission granted to the convicts in for a final hearing on May 2nd. They also requested all convicts who have not yet received any notices to submit their responses. Furthermore, they directed the GoI and state governments to clarify their position on submitting a review plea.
In a hearing on March 27th, the Supreme Court referred to the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots as a heinous act. The Court had inquired if the same standards were applied to the granting of remission to the 11 convicts in the case, as those applied in other murder cases.
The Court had sought responses from the Gujarat government, the Central government, and other concerned parties in response to a petition filed by Bilkis Bano, who had been gang-raped, and whose seven family members were killed during the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
Bilkis Bano has contested the reduction of the sentences of the 11 convicts who were involved in her case. These convicts were granted a reduction in their sentences by the Gujarat government and were released on August 15 of last year.
Pertinently, on 28 February 2002, Hindu mobs who were part of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), unleashed massive violence against Muslims in Gujarat that went on for weeks killing thousands of Muslims.
About 3,000 Muslims were killed. Some 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worship were destroyed, and roughly 150,000 people were displaced.
The massacre was unleashed after the burning of 59 Karsevaks on board the Sabarmati Express in Godhra which was probed and declared an accident.
Modi, the current Prime Minister of India, was accused of initiating and condoning the violence, instructing police to stand by and let Hindu mobs do acts of violence against Muslims.
Strong evidence links the Modi administration in Gujarat to the carefully orchestrated anti-Muslim attacks.
Hindu mobs had detailed lists of Muslim residents and businesses, and violence occurred within view of police stations.
An independent media, Tehelka, used hidden cameras to capture some of the accused speaking openly about how the attacks had Modi’s blessings.