Summary of Recent judgment

Case: Bilkis Yakub Rasool v. Union of India Ors

Date of Order / Judgment: 8 th January, 2024

The Matter Heard by Bench: Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan


In 2002, Bano, who was 21 years old and five months pregnant, was gang-raped in the Dahod district of Gujarat during the post-Godhra communal riots. Seven of her family members, including her three-year-old daughter were also killed by rioters. In 2008, after the trial was transferred to Maharashtra, a Sessions Court in Mumbai, convicted the accused under Sections 302 and 376(2)(e)(g) read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and sentenced them to life imprisonment. In 2017, the Bombay High Court upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of the 11 convicts.

After spending 15 years in jail, one of the convicts, Radheshyam Shah approached the Gujarat High Court seeking remission of his sentence. However, the High Court rejected his plea on the ground of the lack of jurisdiction. When the matter moved in appeal to the Apex Court, the Court held that the remission application had to be decided by the Gujarat Government as the offence took place in the state. Accordingly, under the remission policy the convicts were released by the State Government in 2022.

Aggrieved by this decision, Bilkis Bano approached the Supreme Court challenging the premature release of the 11 convicts.


Whether the premature release of the 11 convicts was justifiable?


The Court observed that Punishment is to be inflicted not for the sake of vengeance but for the sake of prevention and reformation. In his treatise, Plato reasons that the lawgiver, as far as he can, ought to imitate the doctor who does not apply his drug with a view to pain only, but to do the patient good. This curative theory of punishment likens penalty to medicine administered for the sake of the one being chastised. Thus, if a criminal is curable, he ought to be improved by education and other suitable arts and then set free as a better citizen and less of a burden to the State. This postulate lies at the heart of the policy of remission.
The Court also added A woman deserves respect howsoever high or low she may otherwise be considered in society or to whatever faith she may follow or whatever creed she may belong to. Can heinous crimes against women permit remission? These are the issue which arise.


The Supreme Court quashes the remission of 11 convicts and held that the State of Gujarat was not the appropriate government to decide the issue of remission as the trial was held in the State of Maharashtra. Accordingly, the court directed the convicts, who were given premature release in August 2022, to surrender in prison within two weeks.