‘Gujarat Govt abused power’: SC cancels early release of 11 rapists of Bilkis Bano

Rapists who were released in Bilkis Banoo rape case by Gujarat Govt being garlanded by Hindu Right-wing members in 2022.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court invalidated the Gujarat government’s decision to grant remission to 11 convicts involved in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of seven of her family members during the 2002 violence in the state.

The court, comprising Justices B V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan, criticised the orders as “stereotyped” and lacking proper consideration.

The bench directed the convicts to surrender within two weeks, stating that the Gujarat government was not the appropriate authority to issue the remission order. The court clarified that the state where the offenders were tried and sentenced, in this case, Maharashtra, holds the competence to decide remission pleas.

The judgement, spanning over 100 pages, emphasised the breach of the rule of law by the Gujarat government, leading to the quashing of the remission orders. The court also declared its May 13, 2022 order, directing the Gujarat government to consider the remission plea, as a ‘nullity,’ accusing it of being obtained through fraud on the court and the suppression of material facts.

The decision highlighted the misuse of the court order to violate the rule of law. The apex court had reserved its verdict on October 12, 2022, after an 11-day hearing on petitions challenging the remission, including one filed by Bilkis Bano.

The court had directed the submission of original records related to the remission by October 16, 2022. During the proceedings, the court questioned whether convicts have a fundamental right to seek remission and stressed that state governments should not be selective in granting such relief.

Several PILs, including those by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, and TMC leader Mahua Moitra, contested the remission granted by the Gujarat government. Bilkis Bano, who was raped during the 2002 violence, witnessed the death of seven family members, and the 11 convicts were released on August 15, 2022, after being granted remission.

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