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Right to Justice: Bilkis Bano Case

"Violence Is Not The Key To Peace,
Protest Is Not Led With Ease,
Hatred Is All That Leads To,
Justice Is All That It Needs."

What is Right to Justice? According to Article 14 of the constitution of India, rule of law has been defined which promulgates access to justice for people. Access to justice means reaching justice easily through legal proceedings at the appropriate time. Delivery of justice should be impartial and non-discriminatory, state to take all necessary steps to provide fair, transparent, effective, and accountable service that promotes access to justice for all.[1]

The following are the four facets that constitute the essence of access to justice:

  • The state must provide an effective adjudicatory mechanism.
  • The mechanism so provided must be reasonably accessible in terms of distance.
  • The process of adjudication must be speedy.
  • For the litigants, access to the adjudicatory process must be affordable.

Justice is available to everyone irrespective of the disparities and specifically, the state shall cater to the victims as well. Though it may be true most of the time, few cases leave dilemmas in the hearts of people when there may be little loopholes that may lead to disparities. One such is the case of Bilkis Bano.

From vernacular to national newspapers, all were covered in the reminiscence of the Bilkis Bano case on August 15, 2022, when the 11 convicts of rape were released from the Godhra sub-jail on the orders of the Gujarat High Court.

During the Gujarat riots of 2002, the Sabarmati train was burnt in which fifty-nine Karsevaks were killed in the train. Fearing the outbreak of violence, a then five-month pregnant Bilkis Bano fled from her village, with her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter and 15 other family members.

They took refuge in the Chhaparvad district. However, on 3 March, they were abruptly attacked by about 20-30 people armed with sickles, swords, and sticks. Among the attackers were the 11 accused men. Bilkis, her mother, and three other women were raped and brutally assaulted. Of the 17-member group of Muslims from Radhikpur village, eight were found dead, six were missing. Only Bilkis (who reportedly was five months pregnant at that time), a man, and a three-year-old survived the attack.[2]

What was even more shocking was the charade investigation of, Head Constable Somabhai Gori who, according to the CBI, "suppressed material facts and wrote a distorted and truncated version" of her complaint. She was even delayed in her medical examination which took place only after she reached the Godhra relief camp.

According to the CBI investigation (the case was looked upon by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Supreme Court, which ordered an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation.), the heads of the seven deceased members were severed to protect the accused. Even when such a faulty investigation came to the limelight, Bilkis Bano was not able to receive her well-deserved justice instead, she got threat notices and so, the case was moved to Mumbai from Gujarat.

A special CBI court in Mumbai sentenced the accused to life imprisonment on the charges of gang rape and murder in January 2008. The Bombay high court maintained the conviction of the accused in 2017, and in 2019, the SC ordered the Gujarat state government to compensate the victim with Rs 50 lakh, a job, and a house.

Almost after ten years, the Mumbai High Court, in May 2017, upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 11 people in the gang rape case. In 2019, the Supreme Court awarded compensation of Rs 50 lakh to Bilkis Bano.

While it seemed that the matter had finally settled that one of the convicts, Radheshyam Shah, had approached the Gujarat High Court seeking remission of the sentence under section 432 (which mentions the empowerment of the state government to remit sentences as prison is a state subject under the constitution) and 433 (which adds a caveat; convicts who have received a life sentence for an offence that even carry a death sentence) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The high court dismissed his plea while observing that the "appropriate government" to decide on his remission is Maharashtra and not Gujarat. Also, according to remission, the required punishment was 14 years in imprisonment, which they had already completed. When the apex court looked into the said remission, it also had to take into consideration the remission commission passed in the year 1992. The eleven prisoners were released from imprisonment.

According to the constitution, even though the prisoners are considered citizens of India then, does justice only applies to the victims but the convicts as well? The 11 convicts had already completed their mentioned punishment according to the commission and hence they were free to be released. On the other hand, Bilkis Bano received 50 lakhs, a government job and a house at the discretion of the honorable Supreme Court. But what about her mental and psychological trauma, her loss of family members, was she able to attain justice on moral grounds?


  1. Akhil,,
  2. Explained Desk, 'Who is Bilkis Bano, the gang rape of 2002 Gujarat riots', 16-08-2020, pg.5
  3. Kunal Gaurav, 'Hindustan Times' newspaper,
  4. Explain desk, 'Indian Express' newspaper,

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Pranavi Challa
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