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Bilkis Bano Case: Guj Govt Moves SC Seeking Review Of Verdict, Calls The Decision An 'Error'

The Gujarat government has said the apex court's observation in the January 8 judgment in connection with the Bilkis Bano case, holding the state guilty of 'usurpation of power' and 'abuse of discretion' for complying with an order of another top court bench, was an 'error apparent on the face of the record'.

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PTI
Bilkis Bano Photo: PTI
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The Gujarat government has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a review of the court's verdict that quashed the remission granted to 11 men convicted of raping Bilkis Bano and murdering seven of her family members during the 2002 riots, saying certain observations made against the state were unwarranted.

The Gujarat government has said the apex court's observation in the January 8 judgment, holding the state guilty of "usurpation of power" and "abuse of discretion" for complying with an order of another top court bench, was an "error apparent on the face of the record" primarily on three grounds.

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It has said another coordinate bench of the apex court had, in May 2022, held the state of Gujarat to be the "appropriate government" and directed the state to decide the remission application of one of the convicts in accordance with the remission policy of 1992.

"No adverse inference of 'usurpation of power' can be drawn against the state of Gujarat for not filing a review petition against the judgment dated May 13, 2022 (of the coordinate bench)," the review plea says.

"It is humbly submitted that the extreme observation made by this court that the state of Gujarat 'acted in tandem and was complicit with respondent no.3/accused' is not only highly unwarranted and against the record of the case, but has caused serious prejudice to the petitioner-state of Gujarat," it says.

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According to the plea, in view of the "errors on the face of the record", the apex court's interference is imperative and it may be "pleased to review its impugned common final judgment and order dated January 8, 2024 ... to the extent as mentioned hereinabove".

In its January 8 verdict, the apex court had quashed the remission granted to the 11 men convicted in the case and ordered that they be sent back to jail within two weeks.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was raped by the men while fleeing the horror of the communal riots that broke out in Gujarat after the Godhra train-burning incident in February 2002. Her three-year-old daughter was among her seven family members killed.

All 11 convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government and released on August 15, 2022.

Excoriating the Gujarat government, the apex court had said in its verdict that the state "usurped" the power of the Maharashtra government to grant remission to the convicts.

It had held as nullity the May 13, 2022 judgment of another bench of the top court, which had directed the Gujarat government to consider the remission application of one of the convicts in the case, saying it was obtained by "playing fraud on court".

"This is a classic case where the order of this court dated May 13, 2022 has been used for violating the rule of law while passing orders of remission in favour of respondent nos. 3 to 13 (convicts) in the absence of any jurisdiction by the state of Gujarat," a bench of justices B V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan had said.

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"Therefore, without going into the manner in which the power of remission has been exercised, we strike down the orders of remission on the ground of usurpation of powers by the state of Gujarat not vested in it. The orders of remission are hence quashed," it had said.

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