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Bilkis Bano case: SC rejects plea questioning judgment resulting in release of 11 convicts

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five-month pregnant when she was subjected to the horror of gang-rape.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi | Updated :

The Supreme Court has rejected 2002 Gujarat riots gang-rape victim Bilkis Bano’s plea seeking the recall of its May 13, 2022, judgment that had directed the Gujarat government to consider an application by one of the convicts, undergoing life imprisonment, seeking pre-mature release in pursuance to 1992 remission of sentence policy of the State.

The top court’s May 13, 2022, judgment had come on a plea by one of the 11 convicts, Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah alias Lala Vakil – who were convicted and sentenced to undergo life imprisonment for committing gang-rape on Bilkis Bano and murdering seven members of her family including her three years old daughter on March 3, 2002, in Randhikpur village near Dahod. Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five-month pregnant when she was subjected to the horror of gang-rape.

On the 2004 direction of the top court, the trial in the case took place in Mumbai.

Dismissing Bilkis Bano’s plea for the review of May 2022 judgment, a bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Vikram Nath in an order that was uploaded on the top court’s website today said: “In our opinion, there appears no error apparent on the face of record, which may call for review of the judgment dated 13th May, 2022 and as regards the judgments on which reliance has been placed, none of the judgments are of any assistance to the review petitioner. In our opinion, no case for review is made out. The review petition is accordingly dismissed.”

Earlier a communication by the Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court addressed to Bilkis Bano’s advocate Shobha Gupta said, “I am directed to inform you that the review petition above mentioned filed in the Supreme Court was dismissed by the court on December 13, 2022.”

A bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Vikram Nath by May 13, 2022, judgment had directed the Gujarat government to consider the application for pre­mature release in terms of its July 9, 1992, policy that prevailed in the State when accused were convicted and sentenced to undergo life imprisonment by a Mumbai court in 2008.

The top court had ordered the Gujarat government to decide the application for premature release by Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah alias Lala Vakil within two months.

The top court by May 13, 2022, had given Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah alias Lala Vakil the liberty to seek “remedy available under the law” if any “adverse order is passed” on his application for premature release.

Though May 13, 2022, top court order was on a plea by Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah alias Lala Vakil only, but it was taken recourse to release all the 11 convicts on August 15. Besides seeking the review of the May 2022 judgment, which has now been dismissed, Bilkis Bano has also challenged the premature release of 11 convicts. In separate petition

Challenging the grant of remission to 11 convicts, Bilkis has said that even though she is a victim of the crime, she had no clue about any such process of remission or premature release of the convicts.

Earlier, National Federation of Indian Women, General Secretary Annie Raja, Member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, social activist, Professor Roop Rekha Verma and TMC MP Mahua Moitra have approached the top court seeking the revocation of the remission granted 11 convicts.

Defending its decision to grant remission of sentence to 11 convicts, the Gujarat government in its affidavit had told the top court that they had completed 14 years sentence in prison and their “behaviour was found to be good.”

The Gujarat government in its reply has said that it had secured “suitable orders” for grant of remission to the convicts from the Centre. The investigation in the case was carried out by the CBI.

Stating that it had considered the case of 11 life-convicts as per its July 9, 1992 policy and with prior approval of the Central government and granted remission on August 10, 2022, the Gujarat government reply says that it is pertinent to note that the remission was not granted taking recourse to the circular governing grant of remission of sentence to prisoners as a part of celebration of 75 years of Indian independence.

The 11 convicts were released on August 15, 2022 pursuant to remission of sentence granted to them. “State government considered all the opinions and decided to release 11 prisoners since they have completed 14 years and above in prisons and their behaviour was found to be good,” said the Gujarat government affidavit.