In a blow to the Gujarat government, the Supreme Court on Monday cancelled an order passed by the state to release 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape case, holding that it "was not competent" to make such a decision and termed the move a "fraud act".
A bench of Justices BV Nagarthana and Ujjal Bhuyan pronounced the verdict and said a petition filed by Bilkis Bano challenging the early release of 11 convicts was valid.
The bench said the Gujarat government was not empowered to pass the order on the early release of the convicts since the appropriate government entitled to pass such orders was Maharashtra, where the trial took place, and not Gujarat.
"An application (for their early release) was filed by the convicts before the Government of Gujarat and the government is competent to consider it," the Supreme Court observed.
"The government of the state (Maharashtra) where the offender was sentenced is the appropriate government to grant remission and not the government of the state (Gujarat) where the offence took place," it ruled.
The Supreme Court also came down heavily on one of the convicts by suppressing material facts, which ultimately led to the top court ordering the release of all 11 convicts in its order in 2022.
"By suppressing material facts and making misleading facts, a direction was sought by a convict to the state of Gujarat to consider remission. There was no direction from this court to the Gujarat government to consider remission. This is a fraud act," the bench said.