SC Dismisses Bilkis Bano’s Plea Against Use of Gujarat Remission Policy, Challenge to Release of 11 Rape, Murder Convicts Remains

Bano's lawyers had argued that the Maharashtra government, and not the Gujarat government, should have heard the remission application as the convicts were sentenced by a Mumbai court.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Saturday dismissed review petition filed by Bilkis Bano against the Gujarat government’s ability to use its remission policy to release of 11 men convicted of gangraping her and murdering her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The order was passed by a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath.

Her writ petition challenging the convicts’ release remains pending before the Supreme Court.

Bano in her plea had said the Supreme Court’s view that Gujarat had the “appropriate government” to decide on releasing the convicts stood contrary to provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Bano was citing Section 432(7)(b) of the code, which says that the government of the state within which the offender is sentenced has to consider remission as well. The convicts were sentenced by a court in Maharashtra.

Bano argued that given the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Maharashtra government should have heard the remission application.

In May 2022, the same bench had ruled that the Gujarat government had the jurisdiction to decide on the remission request as the crime had occurred in Gujarat.

Eleven of those accused of gang-raping a pregnant Bano and killing her relatives were released from jail on August 15 this year. The 11 men had gangraped then 19-year-old Bano in a village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. Fourteen members of her family were also killed in the violence, including her three-year-old daughter.

Also read: ‘Very Irritating’: CJI Asks Bilkis’s Lawyer Not to Repeat Plea for New Bench for Remission Challenge

The men were freed after the Gujarat government approved their application under its remission policy. On the same day, the convicts were greeted with much celebration by their relatives. A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) also felicitated them, causing national outrage.

Petitions were filed against the remission by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist Revati Laul, activist Roop Rekh Varma, former IPS officer Meeran Chadha Borwankar and some others. In late November Bilkis Bano herself approached the Supreme Court challenging the premature release of the convicts and a review of the Supreme Court’s earlier judgment that allowed the Gujarat government to make a decision on the remission of the convicts.

In a statement, issued on Thursday, December 1, she said, “The decision to once again stand up and knock on the doors of justice was not easy for me. For a long time, after the men who destroyed my entire family and my life were released, I was simply numb. I was paralysed with shock and with fear for my children, my daughters, and above all, paralysed by loss of hope.”

The 11 convicts who were granted premature release are Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana.