May 29, 2024

India’s Supreme Court Overturns Remission Granted to 11 Convicts in Bilkis Bano Case

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Jan 8, 2024

India’s Supreme Court on Monday overturned the premature release of 11 men who were convicted of gang-raping Bilkis Bano and murdering her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The decision is being hailed as a landmark victory for human rights activists and a rebuke to state authorities who granted the convicts early release last year.

Background on the Bilkis Bano Case

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was brutally gang raped while fleeing violent riots in 2002. At least 14 members of her family were also killed, including her 3-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on the ground by the attackers.

The 11 convicted men were part of a Hindu mob that attacked Muslims in retaliation for the Godhra train burning incident, which killed 59 Hindu pilgrims. The anti-Muslim violence that ensued led to over 1,000 deaths in Gujarat.

Bano pursued the case for years, despite threats to her life. The trial began in Ahmedabad in 2003 but was moved to Mumbai after Bano expressed apprehensions over witnesses being threatened.

Key Events in the Bilkis Bano Case
March 3, 2002 – Bilkis Bano is gang raped and her family members murdered during the Gujarat riots
January 21, 2008 – A special CBI court convicts 11 men and sentences them to life imprisonment
May 4, 2017 – The Bombay High Court upholds their conviction and life terms
August 15, 2022 – The Gujarat government grants remission to the 11 convicts under its remission policy
January 8, 2024 – Supreme Court quashes the Gujarat government’s order releasing the convicts

The 11 convicts had been handed life sentences by a special CBI court in 2008. In 2017, the Bombay High Court upheld their conviction and life imprisonment.

However, on August 15th 2022, the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy, sparking outrage from human rights activists and opposition parties. Bano subsequently filed a plea in the Supreme Court challenging the remission.

Supreme Court Overturns Gujarat Government’s Decision

Hearing Bilkis Bano’s plea on Monday, the Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Ajay Rastogi, Vikram Nath, and C T Ravikumar unanimously set aside the remission granted to the 11 convicts.

The court said the state government did not have the authority under law to grant such remission, as the case was investigated by the CBI and the trial took place in Maharashtra after being transferred from Gujarat on Bano’s request due to threats to witnesses.

“The decision of the state government cannot be sustained as it has taken into considerations irrelevant materials while granting remission,” the court stated.

It also directed authorities to ensure that the 11 convicts are taken back into custody to serve out the remainder of their life sentences.

Reactions to the Verdict

The Supreme Court verdict has been widely praised for upholding justice in one of the most horrific cases from the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Bilkis Bano said she regained her faith in the judiciary after feeling “devastated” when the convicts were granted premature release last year.

“I am very happy with the verdict. I always had faith in the Supreme Court,” she told reporters.

Opposition parties also lauded the decision, while attacking the BJP government in Gujarat for allowing the convicts’ release in the first place.

Activists believe the ruling will deter future attempts to grant arbitrary remissions to those convicted of communal violence under populist pretexts. There were concerns from minority groups that the release of Bano’s rapists and murderers was politically motivated around India’s 75th Independence Day.

While handing down the judgment, the Supreme Court bench emphasized that the convicts had committed “gruesome” crimes representing the “guilty use of state power.” Setting aside their “wrongful” release protects constitutional values and establishes confidence in the rule of law, the justices noted.

What Comes Next in This Landmark Case

With the Supreme Court overturning the remission granted to them, the 11 convicts will now be taken back into custody by Gujarat authorities to continue serving their life sentences.

Police escorts are being sent to bring the convicts back to jail under Supreme Court orders. Gujarat officials said formalities to take the men back into custody were underway on Monday afternoon.

The implementation of the court directive will be closely watched by Bano and human rights advocates across India. However, there remains a possibility of the convicts exploring other legal options, including filing a review petition in the Supreme Court itself.

For Bilkis Bano, the overturning of the controversial remission comes as vindication of her long and painful quest for justice spanning over two decades. Despite the trauma she endured, Bano showed immense courage and perseverance as she resolutely fought on multiple fronts seeking justice for the crimes committed against her and her family.

With the Supreme Court unambiguously quashing the early release granted to the convicts, Bano can finally get a greater sense of closure on this horrific episode in her life. However, the larger issues around the lack of rehabilitation for riot victims and the impunity for politicians who endorse communal violence remain unresolved in India.




AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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