Supreme Court Nullifies Gujarat Government’s Decision to Remit Punishment for 11 Convicts in Bilkis Bano Case

Supreme Court of India
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New Delhi, 8th August 2024: The Supreme Court today declared the Gujarat government incompetent to remit the punishment of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. The primary reason cited by the Supreme Court for rejecting Gujarat government’s remission decision was a lack of jurisprudence in remitting sentences not passed by the courts within its territory.

The CBI special court in Mumbai had initially sentenced these 11 convicts to life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case and the killing of 7 of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Bombay High Court later confirmed their punishments.

In August 2022, the Gujarat government remitted their sentences. According to the Supreme Court’s verdict, the Gujarat government lacks the authority to remit sentences awarded by courts outside its territory. Consequently, the court directed the convicts, who were prematurely released in August 2022, to surrender in prison within two weeks.

The bench, comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan, reserved the verdict on October 12 of the previous year after 11 days of hearings. Multiple pleas challenging the remission, including one by Bilkis herself, were filed. Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mahua Moitra and CPI(M)’s Subhashini Ali are among multiple petitioners in the case.

While reprimanding the Gujarat government for issuing “stereotyped” orders without the application of mind, the Supreme Court termed the move a fraudulent act.

The Supreme Court clarified in its judgment that the Gujarat government had unlawfully assumed the power of the Maharashtra government to pass a remission order in favor of the convicts.

It’s noteworthy that the 11 convicts had already served their 14 years of sentence before their release on August 15, 2022.

Highlighting Section 432(7)b of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the bench noted in its judgment that the government of the state where the incident occurred or the convicts were imprisoned was not authorized to grant remission. The sole authority rested with Maharashtra, where the case was transferred and where the convicts were tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.