The Supreme Court has dismissed a review petition filed by Bilkis Yakub Rasool, the survivor of 2002 Gujarat riots who had challenged a May order of the apex court allowing the state government to consider the remission plea of the 11 convicts who gang-raped her, as per a 1992 policy which did not bar early release in rape and murder cases.
The order was passed on December 13 by a bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath sitting in chambers. The order of the court has not been uploaded yet but intimation of its dismissal was communicated on Saturday to Bilkis’ lawyer Shobha Gupta by the Registry of the Supreme Court.
The communication dated Friday sent by the assistant registrar, Supreme Court said, “I am directed to inform you that the review petition above mentioned (Bilkis Yakub Rasool v Union of India) filed in Supreme Court was dismissed by the court on December 13, 2022.”
Bilkis had sought review of the May 13 order passed by the top court holding that the Gujarat government will have the power to grant remission to the said convict as per the policy applicable on the date of his conviction.
Radheyshyam and 10 others were convicted on January 21, 2008 and sentenced to life imprisonment. The premature release policy prevailing then in Gujarat was of July 9, 1992 that did not bar convicts of rape and murder to be considered for remission. Accordingly, the state released the 11 persons on August 15. At the time of release, Shyam had completed 15 years and 7 months in custody.
This sparked a public outrage and the decision was challenged in a clutch of petitions filed before the Supreme Court by Trinamool Congress (TMC) member of Parliament (MP) Mahua Moitra, former Communist Party of India (CPI) MP Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul and professor Roop Rekha Verma. Last month, Bilkis filed a writ petition challenging the Gujarat government’s decision. This petition was besides her review plea.
On December 13, the date when the review petition was listed in chambers, her writ petition was heard by a bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi. The matter was adjourned as one of the judges justice Bela Trivedi hailing from Gujarat recused from hearing the case.
Bilkis was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the violence during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Seven persons of her family including her three-year old daughter were killed during the violence.
In her review petition, Bilkis claimed that she being the survivor was not heard by the court due to which she had no information about the decision of the apex court paving way for the early release of the 11 convicts. She accused Radheyshyam, the petitioner who obtained the May 13 order, of concealing from the court the “egregious nature of the crime” for which he was convicted which amounted to playing fraud upon the court.
She further told the court that the convict Radheyshyam “cleverly” concealed the name of the survivor Bilkis Bano, which became synonymous with the Gujarat riots and failed to inform the top court about an order passed on July 17, 2019 by the Gujarat high court which held that since the trial of the case had been shifted by the Supreme Court from Gujarat to Maharashtra in 2004 and the Mumbai court having convicted the accused, the Maharashtra government will be competent to decide their plea of remission and not Gujarat. This order was not challenged by the convict, Bilkis alleged in her review plea.
The May 13 order had noted the July 2019 order and came to the conclusion that the Gujarat government will be the appropriate government to decide the remission or premature release under Section 432(7) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Though the trial had shifted from Dahod, Gujarat to Mumbai, the top court said that this was for the limited purpose of trial and the state where the crime was committed will remain the competent government to decide on remission.
The May 13 judgment said, “Once the crime was committed in the state of Gujarat, after the trial has been concluded and judgment of conviction came to be passed, all further proceedings have to be considered, including remission or premature release, 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 under the orders of this court.”