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May 22, 2024

Supreme Court Overturns Remission of Bilkis Bano Case Convicts

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Jan 8, 2024

The Supreme Court of India on January 8th, 2024 overturned the premature release of 11 men convicted in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang rape case. The men had been released by the Gujarat government under its remission policy in August 2022, sparking national outrage.

Background of the Bilkis Bano Case

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang raped during the 2002 Gujarat riots. On March 3rd, 2002, Bilkis and her family were attacked by a mob as they tried to flee their village after violence erupted following the Godhra train burning incident. 14 members of her family were murdered including her 3-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on the ground by the attackers. Bilkis was gang raped and left naked and unconscious, but survived the brutal assault.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over the probe into the case in 2004. The Mumbai special CBI court sentenced the 11 accused to life imprisonment on conviction of gang rape and murder in 2008. The Bombay High Court upheld the conviction in 2017.

The 11 convicts served 15 years in jail when the Gujarat government approved their release under its remission policy on August 15th, 2022 when India celebrated 75 years of independence.

Supreme Court Overturns Remission

On January 8th, 2024 a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Ajay Rastogi set aside the premature release of the convicts calling it “wholly unjustified, improper and contrary to law”.

The court said the Gujarat government was not competent to pass an order for the convicts’ release without considering the central government’s opinion. The top court nullified the Gujarat government’s order as illegal, holding that remission can only be granted by the state where the crime was committed, which in this case was Maharashtra.

Justice Rastogi stated in his judgment that the release of the convicts by the Gujarat government “has caused miscarriage of justice which cannot be allowed”. He added that allowing the premature release of the convicts would have a “cascading effect” on society.

The Supreme Court directed the 11 convicts to immediately surrender before the police custody.

Reactions to the Verdict

Bilkis Bano expressed relief at the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the convicts’ release.

In a statement she said, “I was bereft of words. I am still numb. Today, I can breathe again and now I feel my family who were killed will get justice.”

Advocate and women’s rights activist Indira Jaising who represented Bilkis Bano in court welcomed the verdict stating: “The Supreme Court of India restored my faith in the rule of law today…Pressure on the courts can influence the outcome of cases. However, the apex court was courageous enough to rise above the din created by the cheerleaders of rapists and convicted criminals to uphold the law.”

The opposition Congress party criticized the BJP government in Gujarat and at the centre for approving the release of the convicts. Congress spokesperson Rahul Gandhi termed the BJP “patron of convicts”.

Meanwhile, Gujarat Minister Raj Kumar Patel defended the state’s decision saying it was made according to the “guidelines of the central government”.

What Next for the Case

With the Supreme Court quashing the remission of the 11 convicts, their life sentences will be reinstated and they will return to prison to serve out their terms.

The convicts’ lawyer has suggested they may file a review petition against the apex court’s verdict. However, lawyers believe there is little chance of a review with the Supreme Court making strong observations against their premature release.

Bilkis Bano has also filed a separate petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the remission policy under which the convicts were freed. The court may pass judgments setting guidelines on granting remission in future.

The Supreme Court’s ruling underscores that convicts in heinous crimes cannot benefit from arbitrary remission policies at the whims of political executives. By overturning the Gujarat government’s order, the court has upheld the rule of law and the quest for justice for victims like Bilkis Bano.

Timeline of Key Events in the Case

Date Event
March 3, 2002 Bilkis Bano gang raped and 14 family members murdered during Gujarat riots
2004 CBI takes over probe into Bilkis Bano case
January 21, 2008 Special CBI Court convicts 11 accused of gang rape and murder
May 4, 2017 Bombay High Court upholds conviction of 11 convicts
August 15, 2022 Gujarat government approves premature release of convicts under remission policy
November 30, 2022 Supreme Court issues notice on Bilkis Bano’s plea challenging release
January 8, 2024 Supreme Court overturns remission granted to convicts

The Supreme Court stood firmly on the side of justice for Bilkis Bano and the rule of law in overturning the premature release of the convicts. The apex court’s judgment was celebrated across India by those advocating for women’s rights and justice for victims of communal crimes. However, some supporters of the convicts raised concerns over the court overriding executive powers on remission policies. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court asserted its role in correcting an arbitrary political decision that had shocked the nation’s conscience. For Bilkis Bano, the ruling marked another step towards closure for the heinous crimes she endured over 20 years ago.

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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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