In the ongoing proceedings related to remission granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang rape and murder case during the Gujarat riots, the Supreme Court raised a crucial question: whether convicts have a fundamental right to seek remission. The bench, comprising Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan, was considering submissions from the convicts when this query arose.
The bench specifically asked, “Is the right to seek remission a fundamental right of the convicts? Will a petition lie under Article 32?” Article 32 of the Constitution allows citizens to approach the Supreme Court directly if they believe their fundamental rights are violated.
The counsel for the convicts responded that seeking remission is not a fundamental right for convicts. They also pointed out that victims do not have the right to directly file a petition under Article 32 to challenge the remission granted to convicts, as no fundamental right of victims has been violated. Instead, there are other statutory rights available to victims to challenge such remissions.
One convict argued that the grant of remission to convicts by the competent authority is subject to judicial review in high courts under Article 226 of the Constitution. Article 226 empowers high courts to issue orders or writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights and other purposes.
The bench raised concerns about whether remission had been granted following the rules and stressed that remission challenges should primarily be brought before the high courts rather than directly to the Supreme Court under Article 32.
The Supreme Court had previously expressed its concerns about the selective granting of remission to convicts, noting that some convicts are more privileged in this regard. It questioned the Gujarat government’s decision to grant remission to the convicts and suggested that the gravity of the offense should have been considered.
The Bilkis Bano Case will be further heard on October 4, 2023.