Supreme Court rejects Bilkis Bano convicts applications seeking extra time to return to prisonEarly Release of Bilkis Bano Gangrape Convicts
Today, the 11 convicts of the Bilkis Bano case approached the Court seeking postponement of the date of their return to prison. They were ordered to return to prison on 8 January 2024 by a Bench comprising Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan.
Requests for four to six weeks of extension mostly on personal medical grounds, the need to take care of a mother or spouse, and to continue farming for sustenance, were made before the same bench of Justices Nagarathna and Bhuyan.
The Bench heard all the petitions one after another and refused them all.
Unlike 13 May 2022, when the Supreme Court allowed their remission to be considered, the convicts could not pull off a miracle this time. The Bench was firm that their reasons “lack merit.”
During the Gujarat riots in March 2002, Ms. Bano and her family were fleeing from their home in Radhikpur village to Chapparwad village. However, before reaching they were ambushed by a group of men who gangraped Ms. Bano and murdered 14 of her family members including her infant daughter.
Ms. Bano approached the Supreme Court and in December 2003 the Court order the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate her allegations. The case was transferred to a special CBI Court in Bombay and in 2008 the Court imposed life sentences on 11 of the accused.
In May 2022, the SC Ordered the Gujarat State government to consider a request for remission made by one of the 11 convicts, under the 1992 remission policy. In August 2022, the Gujarat government granted the early release of all 11 convicts under the 1992 policy and publicly stated that they were released on ‘good behaviour’. However, this claim has been widely contested. Many allegations have been made claiming that many of the convicts violated their parole, made death sentences against Ms. Bano and her family, and had pending criminal cases against them for crimes committed while they were out on parole.
Ms. Bano and a host of other petitioners challenged the early release of the 11 convicts. They claimed that the Gujarat government should never have released them under the 1992 policy. The gravity of the offence should preclude any early release and further, none of the convicts had served the minimum sentence required to be considered under the 1992 policy.
On October 12th, 2023, the Bench reserved judgement after 11 days of regular hearings.
What are the reasons for seeking an extension?
Below is a compilation of the reasons as per the petitions:
What happened in the Supreme Court?
In a quick hearing, the Bench hastily heard the pleas from each counsel and summarily dismissed them.
Justice Nagarathna, in her oral order, held that none of the reasons provided by the convicts justify the extension. She held that reasons do not prevent the convicts from complying with the two week time frame directed to them on 8 January 2024.