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Liberal, if curious precedent

Published : Jan 30, 2020, 4:02 am IST
Updated : Jan 30, 2020, 4:02 am IST

The case pertains to the massacre in Ode village in Gujarat’s Anand district on March 1, 2002, in the aftermath of the Godhra tragedy.

Supreme Court of India (Photo: File)
 Supreme Court of India (Photo: File)

Indian law gives courts ample powers to set conditions while granting bail to convicts. The Supreme Court has now used those powers to offer relief to 14 arsonists found guilty of burning to death 23 people after setting their homes on fire. The case pertains to the massacre in Ode village in Gujarat’s Anand district on March 1, 2002, in the aftermath of the Godhra tragedy. One of the conditions imposed on the convicts is that they should do “spiritual and social service” for six hours a week. They need to return to jail only if the apex court also finds them guilty.

The Supreme Court, in its wisdom, would have thought that the new conditions would result in a change in the mindset of the murderers and that they would become reformed individuals once they live the new life the court has scripted for them. We have little knowledge about their motive in killing unarmed people — which included nine women and as many children — in their homes other than communal passion. One can only hope that the court will institute some mechanism to ensure that they attend spiritual service, which would reform them indeed so that they would think twice and stop themselves from being part of another pogrom, even if tempted.

Experiments aimed at making hardened criminals humans again must be supported wholeheartedly. However, the apex court, whose decisions become the law of the land and are being followed by the judicial system of the country, should ensure that such experiments are not arbitrary and are followed across the board. Most judicial officers take a tough stand on heinous crimes, especially when they are directed against innocent women and children. The Supreme Court has now set a liberal precedent in such cases. Its repeats should follow a pattern, if it were to be the new norm and bring in the desired results.

Tags: supreme court