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Justice Bela Trivedi Recuses From Hearing Bilkis Bano's Plea Challenging Premature Release Of Gangrape-Murder Convicts

13 Dec 2022 8:55 AM GMT
Justice Bela Trivedi Recuses From Hearing Bilkis Banos Plea Challenging Premature Release Of Gangrape-Murder Convicts

Supreme Court judge Justice Bela Trivedi on Tuesday recused from hearing the writ petition filed by Bilkis Bano challenging the premature release of the 11 convicts sentenced to life for gang rape and murder during 2002 Gujarat Riots.

The writ petition was listed before a bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi. When the matter was taken, Justice Rastogi told Advocate Shobha Gupta, petitioner's lawyer, about the recusal of Justice Trivedi.

"List the matter before a bench which one of us is not a part of", Justice Rastogi said. Gupta requested for an urgent listing of the matter before the Court closes for winter vacations.

Justice Trivedi was deputed as the Law Secretary of the Gujarat Government during 2004-2006.

In May 2022, a bench led by Justice Rastogi had ruled that the Gujarat Government had the jurisdiction to consider the remission request as the offence took place in Gujarat. Allowing a writ petition filed by one of the convicts, the judgment authored by Justice Rastogi overturned the Gujarat High Court's view that the remission had to be considered by the State of Maharashtra, as the trial was held in Mumbai, upon transfer from Gujarat. A separate review petition filed by Bilkis against that judgment is also pending in the Supreme Court.

All the eleven convicts were released on August 15 this year after the State Government allowed their remission applications. Visuals of the released convicts getting heroic welcome became viral in social media, leading to outcry among several sections. In this background, a bunch of PILs were filed in the Supreme Court questioning the relief granted to the convicts. CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, former IPS office Meeran Chadha Borwankar and few other former civil servants, National Federation of Indian Women etc.,were some of the petitioners.

Responding to the petitions, the Gujarat Government has told the Supreme Court in an affidavit that the decision was taken after the approval of the Central Government, considering the good behaviour of the convicts and the completion of 14 years sentence by them. The State's affidavit revealed that the CBI and the Presiding Judge of the Trial Court (Special CBI Court at Mumbai) objected to the release of the convicts on the ground that the offence was grave and heinous.

The annexures in the State's affidavit further showed that one of the convicts was booked for sexual harassment of a woman while he was out on parole in 2020.

Now, the victim of the crime herself has approached the Court questioning the decision to release the convicts.


The crime took place amidst the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. A five-month pregnant Bilkis Bano, who was around 19 years old then, was fleeing their village in Dahod district along with his family members. When they reached the outskirts of the Chhapparwad village Bilkis, her mother and three other women were raped and 14 of her family members, including her three-year-old daughter, were murdered. Owing to the political influence of the accused persons and given the sensitivity of the issue, the investigation was handed over to the CBI as per the directions of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also shifted the trial to Maharashtra. In 2008, a sessions court in Mumbai sentenced the accused to life imprisonment.

After serving 15 years in jail, one of the accused approached the Supreme Court with a plea of his premature release, which was earlier rejected by the Gujarat High Court on the ground that the appropriate government would be that of Maharashtra and not Gujarat.

On 13.05.2022, the Supreme Court decided that the appropriate government to grant remission would be the Gujarat Government and directed it to consider the plea within a period of two months in terms of its 1992 remission policy.

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