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Will Maharashtra govt grant remission to Bilkis rapists?

Source: PTI
January 08, 2024 20:44 IST
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The 11 convicts in the case of gang-rape of Bilkis Bano and murder of seven of her family members during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat can approach the Maharashtra government with request for remission of their sentences.

IMAGE: Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde of Shiv Sena (right) with his two deputies, Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP (centre) and Ajit Pawar of the breakaway NCP faction. Photograph: @MahaDGIPR/Twitter

The convicts, who will have to surrender to the jail authorities within two weeks and undergo the sentence of life term, were wrongly granted remission by the Gujarat government, the Supreme Court held on Monday.

"The government of the state of Gujarat had usurped the powers of the state of Maharashtra which only could have considered the applications seeking remission," a bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan said in its 251-page verdict.


The top court in its judgment said the Gujarat government had no jurisdiction to entertain the applications for remission of sentences awarded to these convicts and only the government of the state where the offenders were tried and sentenced was competent to consider such applications.

After Bilkis Bano had voiced apprehension over tampering with evidence and risk to witnesses, the Gujarat high court had transferred the trial in the case from Ahmedabad to Mumbai.

The apex court, which quashed the remission granted to the 11 men convicted in the case, delivered its verdict on the petitions including the one filed by Bilkis Bano challenging the remission granted to them.

The 11 convicts released prematurely are: Bakabhai Vohania, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Govind Nai, Jaswant Nai, Mitesh Bhatt, Pradeep Mordhiya, Radheshyam Shah, Rajubhai Soni, Ramesh Chandana and Shailesh Bhatt.

While ordering them to surrender before the jail authorities concerned, the Supreme Court said status quo ante (previously existing state of affairs) must be restored.

"...We say so for another reason in the event convicts are inclined to seek remission in accordance with law, they have to be in prison as they cannot seek remission when on bail or outside the jail," the bench said.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was 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.

All 11 convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government and released on Independence Day in 2022.

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