In what seems to be a big blow to the Gujarat government, Supreme Court quashed the govt’s decision of remission for 11 convicts that was granted by the Gujarat government and released. The verdict will imply that all 11 individuals convicted of gang-raping Bilkis Bano and murdering 14 of her family members during the 2002 communal riots, will have to return to jail.
Supreme Court held that the judgment of May 13, 2022 (which directed the Gujarat government to consider remission of convict) was obtained by “playing fraud” on the court and by suppressing material facts. The convicts had not approached the court with clean hands, said the Supreme Court.
‘Gujarat was not competent to pass the remission orders’
Supreme Court held that the State, where an offender is tried and sentenced, is competent to decide the remission plea of convicts. Supreme Court holds that the State of Gujarat was not competent to pass the remission orders of the convicts but the Maharashtra government was.
Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the horror of the communal riots that broke out after the Godhra train-burning incident. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members killed in the riots.
Here’s a sequence of events in Bilkis Bano case
2002: During the post-Godhra riots, Bano was allegedly gang-raped and left to die with 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter. She was five months pregnant when rioters attacked her family in Vadodara. The trial of the case was shifted from Gujarat to Mumbai and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigated the case.
2008: A special court in Mumbai sentenced the 11 accused to life imprisonment.
2017: This decision was upheld by a division bench of the Bombay high court in 2017.
2022: All 11 convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government and released. Supreme Court had asked whether convicts have a fundamental right to seek remission.
2023: While reserving the judgment, the top court had directed the Centre and the Gujarat government to submit by October 2023 the original records related to the remission of sentence of the 11 convicts.