The Gujarat government suffered a setback on Monday when the Supreme Court overturned a state-issued ruling that had allowed the release of eleven convicts found guilty of raping Bilkis Bano and killing seven of her family members during the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat. The Gujarat government was declared to be “not competent enough” by the court to make such an order, and the action was labeled as a “fraud act”.
A bench of Justices BV Nagarthana and Ujjal Bhuyan pronounced the verdict and ordered the convicts to surrender in two weeks and return to jail. The bench said a petition filed by Bilkis Bano challenging the early release of 11 convicts was valid.
A different bench’s May 13, 2022 ruling to the Gujarat government to consider the convicts’ appeal for early release was likewise declared ‘nullity’ by the Supreme Court since it was acquired by “playing fraud on the court” and by omitting important details.
The Supreme Court declared that the assumption of authority and the misuse of the legal system resulting from the May 13, 2022 order violated the rule of law. “We strike down the remission orders on the ground of usurpation of power by Gujarat government,” the court stated.
“By suppressing material facts and making misleading facts, a direction was sought by a convict to the state of Gujarat to consider remission. There was no direction from this court to the Gujarat government to consider remission. This is a fraud act,” the bench said.
When Bilkis Bano, then 21 years old and five months pregnant, was gang-raped on March 3, 2002, she was escaping the riots that had broken out following the Godhra train burning incident in Gujarat. Her daughter, age three, was one of the seven members of the family who perished.