The Supreme Court will hear a batch of pleas on Monday challenging the release of 11 convicts who had gang-raped Bilkis Bano and murdered her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots.
The Gujarat government had granted remission to 11 convicts on August 10 last year following which they walked free on August 15, 2022. A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna will hear the case on March 27.
On March 22, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that he will constitute a bench to hear pleas. “I will have a bench constituted. Need to break two benches for it. Will look at it this evening,” he said after advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing for Bano, mentioned the plea for an early listing of the case.
Earlier also advocate Gupta mentioned the matter for urgent hearing and said that a new bench needs to be constituted by the CJI as Justice Bela M Trivedi recused from hearing the plea.
A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi earlier had ordered that matter be listed before the bench, in which Justice Trivedi is not a part of as she had recused herself from hearing the case.
Besides filing a petition against the pre-mature release of convicts, Bano had also filed a review petition seeking a review of its earlier order by which it had asked the Gujarat government to consider the plea for the remission of one of the convicts.
The review petition was dismissed. Some PILs were filed seeking directions to revoke the remission granted to 11 convicts.
The pleas were filed by the National Federation of Indian Women, whose General Secretary is Annie Raja, Member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, social activist and professor Roop Rekha Verma and TMC MP Mahua Moitra.
Gujarat government in its affidavit had defended remission granted to convicts saying they completed 14 years of sentence in prison and their “behaviour was found to be good”.
The State government said it has considered the cases of all 11 convicts as per the policy of 1992 and remission was granted on August 10, 2022, and the Central government also approved the pre-mature release of convicts.
It is pertinent to note that the remission was not granted under the circular governing grant of remission to prisoners as part of the celebration of “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav”, it had said.
The affidavit stated, “State government considered all the opinions and decided to release 11 prisoners since they have completed 14 years and above in prisons and their behaviour was found to be good.”
The government had also questioned the locus standi of petitioners who filed the PIL challenging the decision saying they are outsiders to the case.
The pleas said they have challenged the order of competent authority of the government of Gujarat by way of which 11 persons who were accused in a set of heinous offences committed in Gujarat were allowed to walk free on August 15, 2022, pursuant to remission being extended to them.
The remission in this heinous case would be entirely against public interest and would shock the collective public conscience, as also be entirely against the interests of the victim (whose family has publicly made statements worrying for her safety), pleas stated.
The Gujarat government released the 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, on August 15. All the 11 life-term convicts in the case were released as per the remission policy prevalent in Gujarat at the time of their conviction in 2008.
In March 2002 during the post-Godhra riots, Bano was gang-raped and left to die with 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter. She was five months pregnant when rioters attacked her family in Vadodara.