Pre-mature release of Bilkis Bano gangrape convict: Supreme Court’s May 2022 order; the review petition and its dismissal, explained 

Supreme Court: In a case relating to the pre-mature release of one of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case, the Bench of Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath, JJ has dismissed the petition seeking review of the order dated 13.05.2022 [Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah v. State of Gujarat, (2022) 8 SCC 552], wherein the Court had observed that once the crime was committed in the State of Gujarat, after the trial been concluded and judgment of conviction came to be passed, all further proceedings have to be considered including remission or pre-mature release, as the case may be, in terms of the policy which is applicable in the State of Gujarat where the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded for exceptional reasons.

The Court observed that it found no error apparent on the face of record, which may call for review of the said judgment.

In the case in question, one of the convicts had sought a direction to the State of Gujarat to consider his application for pre-mature release under the policy dated 09.07.1992 which was existing at the time of his conviction.

It is interesting to note that his trial was transferred from Gujarat to Mumbai and He was held guilty by the Mumbai trial court and was sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life by judgment   dated 21.01.2008.

In such circumstances, the respondents had contended that since he was tried and convicted in Maharashtra, he was not entitled to seek pre-mature release under the policy of Gujarat government.

The Supreme Court, however, rejected the contention and noted that the crime in the instant case was committed in the State of Gujarat and ordinarily, the trial was to be concluded in the same State. The trial was transferred in exceptional circumstances by the Supreme Court for limited purpose for trial and disposal to the State of Maharashtra by an order dated 06.08.2004. However, after the conclusion of trial and the prisoner being convicted, stood transferred to the State of Gujarat. Hence, State of Gujarat will remain the appropriate Government for the purpose of Section 432(7) CrPC in such circumstances.

The Court, hence, directed the State of Gujarat to consider the application of the petitioner for pre-mature release.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gangraped. She saw 14 of her family members being killed, including her 3-year-old daughter, in the 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out after the Godhra train burning.

When on August 15, 2022, her rapists walked out of the prison after serving 15 years’ imprisonment based on Gujarat Government’s remission policy, Bilkis Bano found herself “bereft of words” and “numb”.

Bilkis Bano’s rapists walk free: Supreme Court issues notice to Gujarat Government 

[Bilkis Yakub Rasool v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1804, order dated 13.12.2022]

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