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Justice Bela Trivedi Recuses From Hearing PILs Challenging Premature Release Of Gangrape-Murder Convicts In Bilkis Bano’s Case

4 Jan 2023 11:29 AM GMT
Justice Bela Trivedi Recuses From Hearing PILs Challenging Premature Release Of Gangrape-Murder Convicts In Bilkis Bano’s Case

Supreme Court judge, Justice Bela M. Trivedi, on Wednesday, recused from hearing the Public Interest Litigations challenging the order of Gujarat Government allowing premature release of 11 convicts sentenced to life in the Bilkis Bano case for gangrape & murder during 2002 Gujarat Riots.

The recusal is seemingly on the basis that Justice Trivedi was deputed as the Law Secretary of the Gujarat Government during 2004-2006.

Sitting in the same combination, with Justice Ajay Rastogi, in December, 2022, Justice Bela M. Trivedi had also recused from hearing the writ petition filed by Bilkis Bano questioning the decision to release the convicts.

Today, a batch of PILs filed against the remission were listed before a bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela Trivedi.

At the outset, Advocate, Ms. Aparna Bhat appearing on behalf of one of the petitioners apprised the Bench that the pleadings are complete and it can be kept for final hearing in February.

As the Counsel for the accused raised the issue of maintainability, Justice Ajay Rastogi noted that Bano herself has now approached the Apex Court. Advocate, Ms. Shobha Gupta appearing on behalf of Bilkis Bano informed the Bench that in the petition filed by her, J. Trivedi had recused. Senior Advocate, Mr. A.M. Singhvi representing one of the petitioners submitted that every time the matter is taken up, the respondents raise the issue of maintainability. Noting that Bano is before the Court, Justice Rastogi encouraged the parties involved to only argue on merits. He also reckoned that Bano’s petition can be tagged and made the lead matter in the batch of petitions. However, he was concerned that since Justice Trivedi was recusing, the present Bench would not be able to tag the matter. Justice Rastogi asked Ms. Gupta to mention Bano’s matter when he is sitting in a different combination, so that it can be tagged.


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. A review petition was filed by Bano challenging the same, which was dismissed by the Apex Court in December, 2022.

Last year on 15th August, all the eleven convicts were released after the State Government allowed their remission applications. In this backdrop, 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.

[Case Title: Subhashini Ali And Ors. v. State of Gujarat And Anr. WP(Crl) No. 319/2022]

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