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The injustice of exceptionalism

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: Remission policy for convicts, Bilkis Bano case etc


Directions: It is important for prelims to know the concepts of the terms such as remission, suspension, respite, and commute (do go through them once).

Source: The Hindu

Context: Eleven men who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano were released this week from a jail in Gujarat. This calls into question the state government’s remission policy for convicts.


Argument: While the state government says, they have already completed 14 years of their imprisonment and have shown good behaviour in court and are therefore eligible for remission. Experts point out that remission for heinous crimes such as rape and murder is unjustified.

      • Previously, a Special Central Bureau of Investigation Court had sentenced the men to life imprisonment in 2008.


What is Remission?

In remission, the nature of the sentence is remained untouched, while the duration is reduced i.e. the rest of the sentence need not be undergone.

For example, if a person is sentenced to a term of 20 years, his sentence is now reduced to 15 years.


Argument against the release of convicts

      • Ineligible for premature release: As in most States, Gujarat’s current remission policy (it adopted a new and revised remission policy for prisoners in 2014), makes those convicted of rape ineligible for premature release.
      • Against justice for the victim and minorities community
      • Some experts view remission of the accused as politically motivated


Argument for release

      • Remission policy of 1992: Supreme Court of India had earlier ruled that the remission question, in this case, would be governed by the remission policy of 1992 that was in force at the time of conviction which did not exclude those convicted of rape from executive remission.
      • The ground of Good behaviour: State governments have laid down behaviour/activities that can earn prisoners a certain amount of days as remission, which is then deducted from their sentence.
      • Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC): The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) is clear that life convicts have to undergo a minimum of 14 years of actual imprisonment before they can be considered for remission/premature release.
      • But in this case, the term of imprisonment of all 11 men was more than 15 years and therefore, the calculation of 14 years is irrelevant.


Power of Governor: State governments have also developed premature release rules that include the power to give effect to the Governor’s powers of remission under Article 161 of the Constitution.

      • Those powers are not governed by the CrPC and are often used to bypass the minimum 14 years of actual imprisonment requirement in the CrPC.


Article 161:

      • It deals with the Pardoning Power of the Governor.
      • The Governor can grant pardons, reprieves, respites and remissions of punishments or suspend, remit and commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the state extends.


Insta Links:

Pardoning power of Governor


Mains Links

Learn about the powers of the President and governors and their differences ( e.g. The difference between the pardoning power of the President and that of the Governor is that the Governor does not enjoy the power to grant a pardon to a death sentence). You may attempt this Qn.

Q. Instances of the President’s delay in commuting death sentences have come under public debate as denial of justice. Should there be a time limit specified for the President to accept/reject such petitions? Analyze. (UPSC 2014)

Prelims Link:

Know the difference between the key terms (as directed before) pardons, reprieves, respites and remissions of punishments or suspend, remit and commute.

    1. Which of the following statements is/are correct?
    2. The scope of the pardoning power of the Governor under the Constitution is wider than the pardoning power of the President.
    3. The pardoning power of the Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

a. 1 only

b. 2 only

c. Both 1 and 2

d. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans: (b)


  • The scope of the pardoning power of the President under Article 72 is wider than the pardoning power of the Governor under Article 161.
  • The President can grant pardon in all cases where the sentence given is the sentence of death but the pardoning power of the Governor does not extend to death sentence cases.