On monday eleven convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 post-godra bilkis bano gang rape case walked out of godra jail.
This happened after the gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy and as soon as the convicts were released visual emerged of relatives greeting them with sweets and charan spurs outside the godrajev which of course led to a lot of criticism of their release but what exactly happened in this case and why have the convicts been released now.
What had actually happened in this case?
since it's an it's a very old case bano who was 19 years old and five months pregnant at that time was gang raped during the 2002 post-godra riots in randikpur village and was left to die.
According to the prosecution case attackers came in two white vehicles carrying swords, sickles and latties and on seeing bano's family started shouting mussal manoku maru or kill the muslims they also killed 14 members of her family including a two-year-old daughter saleha whose head was smashed on a rock by one of the attackers bano's family was hiding in fields near ahmedabad hoping to escape the violence that had erupted following the burning of a sabarmati express coach her case was termed as one of the most brutal of the 2002 gujarat riots.
This is where her long and lonely fight for justice began the gujarat police initially dismissed her case in 2003 lacking citing a lack of evidence the same year bano approached the national human rights commission and knocked on the doors of the apex court for justice the supreme court then asked the central bureau of investigation that is the CBI to look into the matter and probe it the CBI are then arrested all the 11 men in involved.
In this case in 2004 it arrested all the accused named babano and exhumed the bodies of those who were killed citing threats to her family banner petitioned the supreme court to move the trial from gujarat in august 2004 the case was also shifted to mumbai from gujarat and in 2008 a trial court in mumbai convicted 13 people of criminal conspiracy rape and murder.
Sentenced 11 of them to life that is life imprisonment the 11 convicts are you can see right now now the few accused of course challenged their conviction in the bombay high court and the CBI also moved the bombay high court seeking enhancement of the sentences of three accused to death penalty and they also challenged the acquittal of seven other accused in may 2017.
The bombay high court upheld the life imprisonment terms of the 11 accused but quashed the acquittal of seven others including doctors and policemen and held them guilty for tampering of evidence after the verdict bano sitting with her husband by her side and her little daughter on her lap addressed a press conference in delhi.
saying she was happy that the judiciary had not failed her she spoke about how the last 15 years were very difficult and how her family went through a lot in april 2019 she got another reason to smile after the supreme court ordered the gujarat government to provide bano with the compensation of rupees 50 lakhs a government job and accommodation.
Now these men the 11 wanted to be released prematurely under sections 433 and 433a of the code of criminal procedure let me take you through the law section 433 allows the appropriate government to commute and imprisonment for life to imprisonment of 14 years that's what remission basically means it means reducing the amount of sentence without changing its character so for example two years rigorous imprisonment can be changed to one year rigorous imprisonment section 433a places a restriction on powers of remission it says that where a person has been given a life sentence for a crime which has death penalty as one of the punishments that can be given for committing the crime then such a person shall not be released from prison unless he served at least 14 years in jail in this case they had already served more than 15 years.
Now just to clarify this power of remission is different from the constitutional powers that are enjoyed by the president and the governor under the constitution articles 72 and 161 empower the president and the governors of states to grant pardons or suspend remit or commute sentences in certain cases.
According to the supreme court when the action can be traced to section 433 crpc the approval of the president or the governor as the case may be is not really needed but if the power is exercised under article 72 and 161 the president's or the governor's sanction is of course absolutely mandatory it's necessary but here also the president and the governor are bound by the advice given by the council of ministers so that's how these all these powers are different they're parallel they're similar but they're different up until now the 11 men had spent about 15 years and seven to eight months in custody.
Now there was some confusion as to which government should consider their remission application because the crime was committed in gujarat like i told you but they were convicted by a mumbai court so the supreme court settled this year saying that since the crime was committed in gujarat and ordinarily the trial would have happened in gujarat the state government should consider the remission application so the supreme court asked the gujarat government to consider their application for premature release within two months in may this year.
Now all state governments have their own policies and guidelines on grant of remission so the gujarat government's latest policy which was issued in 2014.
Now it in fact expressly says that certain categories of prisoners shall not be granted remission and this includes prisoners who have been convicted for murder with rape or gang rape which is exactly what had happened in bill kisbano's case but why they have been granted remission despite this policy is because this policy does not apply in this case the supreme court in its may judgment had also said that the applications in this case need to be considered on the basis of the state government's 1992 policy which existed when these men were commit convicted.
Now they have all been released based on this old 1992 policy but the state government's decision is still of course facing a lot of criticism because this was a very heinous crime critics have of course pointed out that the new policy expressly prohibits state remission or premature release in gang rape cases it also prohibits a release in cases that were investigated by cbi which is exactly what happened in this case critics have also cited central guidelines for special remission to prisoners on independence day this year and republic day,
these guidelines also say that special remission is not for people convicted for rape of course both of these guidelines the 2014 and the central guidelines don't apply in this case again but critics have basically tried to point out how the release of these 11 men went against the state against the states in the center's own latest principles.