The Bilkis Bano case is a landmark case in the quest for justice and legal reforms in India. Bilkis Bano, a victim of the 2002 Gujarat riots, was gang-raped and witnessed the murder of her family. This case highlights the vulnerability of women in conflict zones and exposes the flaws in the Indian legal system. Bilkis Bano faced many challenges in her quest for justice, including societal stigma and institutional obstacles. The case highlights the intersection of gender and communal violence. Analysis of the judicial process reveals shortcomings in the investigation and prosecution processes, which calls for legal reforms such as witness protection and speedy trials. The Bilkis Bano case underscores the need for a comprehensive response to sexual violence, demanding justice and support for survivors. The lessons of this case contribute to the global discourse on human rights and justice.


The Bilkis Bano case came to light in 2002 during the communal riots in Gujarat. All seven family members  were killed. This incident caused  anger and criticism from the government. Bano woke up three hours later and went to the police station to report the incident. However, the police allegedly refused to include the relevant information in the FIR. Bano then sought help from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Supreme Court, which ordered a CBI probe. The National Human Rights Commission provided support and legal representation to Bano. The suspect was arrested within a month, but Bano received death threats and had to transfer the case to the  Maharashtra court for an impartial investigation.

Approach under article 32 of the constitution

The judgment supported Bano’s claim, saying that Article 32 was necessary for the implementation of fundamental rights. Bano went to the Supreme Court to seek her rights under Articles 14 and 21.  The decision also stated that one of the convicts went to the Supreme Court to commute his sentence. Based on these facts, it was held that the Gujarat High Court could not entertain Bano’s petition, which justified  her case before the Supreme Court.

PIL’S Maintainability

The decision leaves the PIL issue unresolved. After the convicts were released, civil society filed a criminal complaint against them. The Government of Gujarat  and the convicts are of the view that the petitioners should not participate in the criminal case. The petitioners defended the PIL, saying the transfer order could affect people. In the decision, it was stated that Bano’s application was evaluated as the basis for a sentence reduction. The safety of PIL is an academic debate and cannot be answered here.

Competency of Maharashtra government for the consideration of remission of convicts

The decision made clear that the “appropriate government” for trial and punishment was the place of the offender, not  the place of the trial. The opinion of the presiding judge is important in the request for mitigation of the sentence. In this case,  the  court decided and gave judgment in Maharashtra. Bano’s trial was postponed to ensure justice and witness protection. The decision stated that the place where the crime was committed and the prison sentence should not be important factors. Reference is made to previous court decisions to support this interpretation. Justice Nagarathna criticized the Gujarat government for  rejecting the transfer application based on these principles.

Victim’s contentions

Advocate Shobha Gupta represented the petitioner, who argued that the convicts committed pre-planned crimes. They conspired to rape and kill the victim’s family members, chasing them relentlessly. The convicts even raped a five-month pregnant woman, causing her to lose consciousness. Moreover, they brutally gang-raped and murdered the victim’s mother, cousins, aunts, uncles, and four minor siblings. The convicts’ viciousness resulted in unidentifiable bodies, except for seven family members. The petitioner emphasized that such inhuman acts warrant no leniency and highlighted the victim’s pleas for mercy being ignored. Accordingly, the counsel urged the court to consider the severity of the crime in the judgment.

Convict’s contentions

The convicts in this case filed an appeal stating the facts that the victim gave birth to a child after this incident, which shows that she was not gang-raped as alleged. They also claimed that the evidence presented by the CBI was all fabricated by them. There was no evidence to show that the victim’s family members were killed because their bodies were not found, which would prove them guilty of murder.

Filing of review petition by Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano and various others, including Subhashini Ali, Revati Laul, Roop Rekha Verma and Mahua Moitra, took legal action against the release of 11 convicts involved in the gang-rape and murder of Bano’s family members. A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed challenging the Gujarat government’s decision to grant amnesty to convicts. The Supreme Court heard the arguments of both sides and decided whether the PILs were valid. Advocate Shobha Gupta, representing Bilkis Bano, filed a review petition against the early release of the convicts. Several PILs were filed, one of which was represented by senior advocate Indira Jaising. Counsel for the convicts argued that the petitioners had no right to file the PIL as Bano herself had already filed the petition.

Convicts response to review petition

Sonia Mathur, lawyer for Bipin Chandra Joshi, argued that only the state can challenge the court’s decision and the victim has no right to do so. She also argued that her client should not be held responsible for the government’s decision to grant a pardon and the state should be held accountable for its misconduct. Mathur acknowledged that compensation cannot undo what happened to the victim, but emphasized that her client provided work, housing and the highest compensation among rape cases to uphold the victim’s rights. She further stated that the convicts were released after fulfilling all the necessary conditions for early release and outsiders have no right to interfere. Decisions of various High Courts in favour of early release of convicts with pardons were upheld.

After hearing the arguments of Adv. Mathur, the bench questioned why Indian prisons are still so overcrowded if in fact all prisoners who have completed 14 years of their sentences are being released on amnesty to reform them. The lawyer further informed the Court about the illness of Joshi’s wife. His wife was suffering from cancer. She also told the court that part of his compensation which is Rs. 6,000, was already paid in 2019 and no objection was raised by the trial court while accepting the fine. The hearing of the Bilkis Bano case was decided to resume again on 31 August 2023.

Supreme courts contentions

The Supreme Court has asked the Gujarat government various questions regarding the release of convicts with amnesty. It was asked whether they considered the seriousness of the crimes the convicts had committed before releasing them.

  • He was also asked whether or not convicts were often paroled while serving life sentences.
  • The court also questioned whether the Gujarat government followed the uniform standards followed in other murder cases when releasing convicts in the murder case.
  • The Supreme Court asked the Gujarat government whether it was mindful of the intensity of the crimes committed by the convicts when they were released on leniency.


This article deals with the rape victim bilkis bano who was gangraped by a group of people during the riots and she was pregnant at the time of the rape. It was a very brutal crime which shook the entire country and the question which was raised is – are women safe in a country like india?. This deep case analysis talks about all the points to be considered while the justice was served to bilkis bano. 


The Bilkis Bano case highlights the vulnerability of women in conflict zones and the need for a sensitive legal framework to address the issues faced by victims of sexual violence. The case also exposes flaws in India’s judicial system and highlights the need for systemic reforms such as fast-track trials and witness protection programs. The judgments in the case, especially by the Supreme Court, represent a step towards accountability by convicting the perpetrators and criticizing the state authorities for obstructing justice. The symbolic compensation awarded to Bilkis Bano recognizes her trauma and the failure of the justice system and supports a victim-centred approach. Lessons from the case can contribute to global efforts to prevent and address mass sexual violence during conflict. The Bilkis Bano case is thought-provoking on the state of justice, human rights and legal reforms in India, advocating systemic change and a society where justice is accessible to all. Bilkis Ban’s courage leads the way to a more just and humane society.


1. Why bilkis bano filed the case?

During the riots the lady bilkis bano was brutally gangraped when she was pregnant which has a very heinous crime.

2. Under which articles did bilkis bano approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court?

Bilkis bano approached the supreme court under Article 32 of the constitution along with article 14 and 21.

3. What was the reason for filing of the review petition?

The review petition was filed because the convicts were released earlier by the government  than the punishment which was actually given to them by the Supreme court.

Name – swati

College- Asian law college, noida

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