Indian Supreme Court questions Gujrat government’s release of 11 convicts

Crimes are generally committed against society and the community; unequals cannot be treated equally, the bench stated.


The release of 11 convicts who gang-raped Bilkis Bano and killer her family members, including her young daughter, during the 2002 Gujarat riots sparked protest in India last week. FILE PHOTO: AFP

April 19, 2023

DHAKA – India’s Supreme Court today questioned the paroles granted to 11 convicts during their incarceration in the infamous Bilkis Bano gang-rape case relating to the 2002 Gujarat state riots and said the gravity of the offence could have been considered by the state.

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna said a pregnant woman was gang-raped and several people were killed, reports our New Delhi correspondent.

“You cannot compare the victim’s case with standard (Indian Penal Code) section 302 (murder) cases. Like you cannot compare apples with oranges, similarly massacre cannot be compared with single murder.”

Crimes are generally committed against society and the community. Unequals cannot be treated equally, the bench added.

“The question is whether government applied its mind and what material formed the basis of its decision to grant remission” of sentence to the convicts, the bench said, adding, “Today it is Bilkis but tomorrow it can be anyone. It may be you or me. If you do not show your reasons for grant of remission, then we will draw our own conclusions.”

The bench posted the petitions challenging the remission to the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case for final disposal on May 2.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the riots that broke out after a train carrying 56 pilgrims from Ayodhya was set afire in Godhra, Gujarat, in February, 2002.

On March 27 this year, terming Bilkis Bano’s gang-rape and the murder of seven of her family members, including a three-year-old child, during the 2002 Godhra riots as a “horrendous” act, the Supreme Court had asked the Gujarat state government whether uniform standards, as followed in other cases of murder, were applied while granting remission to the 11 convicts in the case.

Bilkis Bano has challenged the remission of sentence of 11 convicts in the case.

All the 11 convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government and released on August 15 last year.

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