The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed petitions by the 11 Bilkis Bano case convicts seeking more time before they surrender to the authorities and are sent back to jail. A bench led by Justice BV Nagarathna said the petitions – which cited reasons from attending family weddings and dependant parents to the harvest season – lacked merit and told the men to report to prison officials by Sunday.
The 11 – who raped Ms Bano and slaughtered members of her family during the Godhra riots – were released by the Gujarat government on Independence Day in 2022, on the basis of an obsolete law.
Ms Bano and civil society activists filed frantic appeals against their release, and these were heard by the Supreme Court this month. An irate top court revoked the convicts’ release; the court cancelled its May 2022 order, which had allowed the 11 to appeal to the Gujarat government for early release.
The court said the order was “obtained through fraudulent means and suspension of facts” and rebuked the state government for not filing a petition to review the release. It also said the state ought to have noted the men could only be released by Maharashtra, where they were tried.
The convicts had been released by Gujarat government after it consulted a ‘panel’ that included men linked to the ruling BJP. The panel declared the rapists and killers “sanskari Brahmins” and recommended their release citing a 1992 remission policy, which has since been overwritten.
The convicts were given a hero’s welcome and were seen sharing stage with a BJP MP and MLA.
Bilkis Bano was 21 and five months’ pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing during the communal riots that broke out after the fire in Sabarmati Express in which 59 kar sevaks were killed. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members slaughtered in the riots.
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