Bilkis Bano Case

Bilkis Bano Case


 Syllabus: GS-II

Subject: Indian Polity and Constitution

Topic: Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States – Remission Powers.

Why in News?

The Supreme Court has struck down the remission granted by the State of Gujarat to 11 men convicted in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case of 2002.

Background of the Case:

 width= Highlights of the judgement:

  • The court has ruled that the Gujarat government’s decision to remit their sentences and set them free was illegal.
  • The court said Gujarat did not have the jurisdiction to grant remission to the convicts as it was not the “appropriate government” under Section 432(7)(b) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
  • As per Supreme court, the appropriate government to decide remission is the state within whose jurisdiction the accused were sentenced — and not the state within whose territorial limits the offence was committed or the accused were imprisoned.
  • Though the crime had been committed Gujarat’s Dahod district, the trial took place in Mumbai, where a special court convicted and sentenced the accused in 2008.
  • Hence, the state of Maharashtra shall be the appropriate government to grant remission.

 What is the law on remission of sentences?

  1. Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution:
    • The President and Governors of states can pardon a convict, and can also suspend, remit, or commute a sentence passed by the courts.
    • Not a discretionary power, but based on the recommendation of the Council of ministers.
  1. Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)
    • State governments to have the power to remit sentences, as Prisons is a state subject under Seventh Schedule.
    • States set up a Sentence Review Board to exercise the powers under Section 432 of the CrPC.
    • The Supreme Court held that states cannot exercise the power of remission arbitrarily, and must follow due process.
    • Convicts serving life sentences are entitled to seek remission only after serving a minimum of 14 years.
  1. Grounds for remission:

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 the society;

(b) Whether there is a chance of the crime being repeated in future;

(c) Whether the convict has lost the potentiality to commit crime;

(d) Whether any purpose is being served in keeping the convict in prison; and

(e) Socio-economic conditions of the convict’s family.

What happens now?

  • The court directed the released convicts to report back to the jail authorities within two weeks.
  • The convicts can approach the Maharashtra government for remission in the future, as it is declared as the appropriate government.
  • Whether remission is granted will, depend on various aspects, including the remission policy of the state of Maharashtra.
  • As per 2008 Government Resolution which is applicable to the convicts, a minimum imprisonment of 28 years would have to be undergone before they can apply for remission.



The convict’s right to reform cannot annul the victim’s right to justice. By quashing the remission of the convicts and highlighting the lack of jurisdiction by the Gujarat government, the court has reaffirmed the importance of due process and victim sensitivity in such sensitive cases.

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