“Dismissed”: Supreme Court on Bilkis Bano’s plea challenging release of rape-murder convicts

Supreme Court of India Saturday dismissed the review petition filed by Gujarat Muslim genocide survivor Bilkis Bano seeking review of the May 2022 judgment which held that Gujarat Government had the jurisdiction to decide the remission applications of 11 gangrape- murder convicts even though the trial was held in Maharashtra.

The order was passed by a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath.

“I am directed to inform you that the Review Petition above mentioned filed in Supreme Court was Dismissed by the Court on 13th December, 2022,” said Assistant Registrar.

Bano’s plea against the top court’s May 2022 judgment, contended that the remission policy of State of Maharashtra should apply in present case, instead of 1992 remission policy of Gujarat since the trial in the case had happened in Maharashtra.

Bilkis Bano had approached the Supreme Court challenging the release of 11 Hindutva men convicted of gang-raping her and killing seven members of her family in the 2002 Gujarat Muslim genocide.

The convicts were freed on August 15, Independence Day, by the Gujarat government under a past remission policy.

The move sparked massive outrage, especially when visuals showed the rapists being garlanded and welcomed like heroes by a Hindutva organisation.

Bilkis Bano had said in her petition that Maharashtra, not Gujarat, should decide on releasing the men.

The 11 convicts who had been set free are: Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana.

Bilkis Bano, who is now in her forties, was five months pregnant when she was brutally gangraped by Hindutva men in Muslim genocide in 2002 in Gujarat, which saw nearly 2,000 Muslims killed in some of the worst anti-Muslim pogroms India has experienced. Seven members of Bano’s family were also killed in the violence, including her three-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on the ground by the perpetrators.

Bano and two of her children were the only survivors among a group of 17 Muslims.

Bano had said the decision by the Gujarat state government to free her rapists has left her “numb”, “bereft of words” and shaken her faith in justice.