Bilkis Bano case: In a ruling on Monday, January 8, the Indian Supreme Court overturned a government order from Gujarat that had permitted the early release of Bilkis Bano’s rapists from the previous year. Bano’s petition against the remission judgment is fully legitimate and maintainable, the court further declared.
When delivering the decision, Justice BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan criticised the state government harshly, stating that it was unable to approve the remission order. “A remission order cannot be issued by the state government whose territory the offense took place. Orders of remission must thus be revoked, according to Justice Nagarathna. “We strike down the remission orders on grounds of usurpation of powers by the Gujarat government,” he stated.
All eleven of the convicted have been ordered by the court to report to the prison authorities in two weeks. The court ruled that as the criminals were convicted in Maharashtra, only the state could have issued the remission orders.
The court, citing the May 13, 2022 ruling (which ordered the Gujarat government to consider remission of convictions), did not hold back in declaring that the state of Gujarat concealed information and kept the SC in the dark. “In this case, Gujarat collaborated with Respondent No. 3 (the prisoner) and participated in complicity. Suppressing information resulted in this Court being misled. Judge Nagarathna stated that Gujarat’s use of authority amounted to the State usurping it.
“Taking advantage of May 13 order of this Court… Other convicts also filed remission applications and this Gujarat government passed remission orders.”
Who is Bilkis Bano?
During the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bilkis Bano was among the many citizens of Gujarat who were trying to escape the state. When she was trying to flee her community, she was just 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped.
On March 3, as she and her three-year-old daughter were sheltering in a field with many other family members, she became pregnant and was attacked by a group of twenty to thirty men with sickles, swords, and clubs. Her infant was among the fourteen family members that perished in the attack.
The Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe due to the horrific nature of the crime and the outcry that followed. As a result, 11 of Bilkis Bano’s attackers were found guilty and given life sentences for the horrible deed. However, as part of its remission campaign, the Gujarati government freed the 11 rapists on August 15, 2022, Independence Day.
When one of the prisoners filed a plea with the Supreme Court to be released early. They had already spent more than 15 years behind bars. The Panchmahal collector Sujal Mayatra led the committee that looked into the prisoners’ early release.
Upon their release, the prisoners received a hero’s welcome, and several were even spotted posing with prominent state politicians. As a result, the opposition, activists, and civil society all condemned them harshly after their release.