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Supreme Court To Hear PILs Challenging Premature Release Of Bilkis Bano Case Convicts On November 29

18 Oct 2022 7:14 AM GMT
Supreme Court To Hear PILs Challenging Premature Release Of Bilkis Bano Case Convicts On November 29

The Supreme Court on Tuesday remarked that the counter affidavit filed by the Gujarat government in opposition of PILs challenging the premature release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, is "very bulky".

"A series of judgments are stated, where is the factual scenario, where is the application of mind?" Justices Ajay Rastogi asked.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the government responded that the judgments were only mentioned for easy reference and it could have been avoided.

The bench also comprising Justice CT Ravikumar was considering the PILs filed by Communist Party of India (Marxist ) member Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, Prof Roop Rekha Verma, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, Dr Meeran Chadha Borwankar(ex- IPS), Madhu Badhuri (ex- IFS ), activist Jagdeep Chhokar.

At the outset, Senior Adv Kapil Sibal sought time to respond to the counter-affidavit of State and the convicts. Allowing the request, the bench adjourned the hearing to November 29.

The Gujarat Govt has told the Court that the remission was granted with the approval of Centre. The State affidavit further stated that CBI and the trial judge opposed remission, but the state government, after taking the opinion of other authorities, decided to grant remission of sentence on completion of their 14 years sentence as their "behaviour was found to be good".

One of the convicts in the matter has questioned the maintainability of the writ petitions, claiming that the above politicians, activists and journalists are 'third party strangers to the said case' and that involvement of such third parties, without locus standi, would open floodgates for strangers to intervene in criminal matters.

During the hearing, the Bench also expressed that it will not entertain any new petitions in the matter. When a lawyer mentioned a similar petition, Justice Rastogi orally remarked,

"No more further writ petitions. We have already enough writ petitions. You have so many star lawyers appearing and why more writ petitions."

The crime, which happened during the 2002 Gujarat riots, relates to the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of 14 of her family members, including her three year old daughter in a communal attack. Bilkis was the only survivor of the crime. The investigation was handed over to the CBI and the trial was shifted from Gujarat to Maharashtra by the Supreme Court. In 2008, a sessions court in Mumbai convicted 11 persons for gangrape and murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The conviction was upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.

In May 2022, the Supreme Court had held that Gujarat Government was the appropriate government to consider the remission in the case and directed that the remission applications be decided within two months. Subsequently, all the convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat Government and released from a jail in Godhra.

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