Bilkis Bano approaches Supreme Court challenging release of 11 convicts

Bano has also moved a review petition against the apex court judgment allowing the Gujarat government to decide on the remission of the convicts.
Activists and members of various organisations stage a protest against remission of sentence of Bilkis Bano case convicts, at Freedom Park. (File Photo| EPS)
Activists and members of various organisations stage a protest against remission of sentence of Bilkis Bano case convicts, at Freedom Park. (File Photo| EPS)

Bilkis Bano has approached Supreme Court challenging top court’s May 13, 2022 ruling, as per which the bench has asked the Gujarat government to consider pre mature release of the convicts on the basis of 1992 policy.

Five-months pregnant Bano was gang-raped and her three-year-old daughter Saleha was among the 14 people killed by a mob in Dahod on March 3, 2002, in communal riots that consumed Guiarat following the death of 59 passengers, mainly 'Kar Sevaks', when the Sabarmati Express was set on fire.

Urging the bench headed by CJI DY Chandrachud to list her plea, Advocate Shobha Gupta submitted that the plea should be heard in open court. Gupta also told the bench that Bilkis has filed a writ petition challenging the release of the 11 convicts who had gangraped and murdered seven members of her family during the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat.

Considering her submissions, CJI DY Chandrachud said that he would examine the issue of whether both the pleas can be heard together and if it could be heard before the same bench.

Bilkis in her review plea, has stated that the appropriate government in this case would not be the State of Gujarat but the State of Maharashtra. The plea also states that remission policy of the state of Maharashtra would govern this case. Gujarat government’s 1992 policy did not prohibit the remission of rape, gang rape or murder convicts.

SC’s May 13 verdict had come in case of RadheyShyam, one of the convicts in the case, who had then completed 15 years and 4 months of custody.

A bench of Justices, Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath, while directing the Gujarat government to consider his plea seeking pre­mature release in terms of its policy dated 9th July, 1992 within a period of two months in their order had said,

“In the instant case, once the crime was committed in the State of Gujarat, after the trial has been concluded and judgment of conviction came to be passed, all further proceedings have to be considered including remission or pre­mature release, as the case may be, in terms of the policy which is applicable in the State of Gujarat where the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded for exceptional reasons under the orders of this Court.”

Apart from Bilkis, women's rights activists including Subhashini Ali have also challenged the release of the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.

The plea challenging the remission becomes significant against the backdrop of objections put forth by the Gujarat government as well as the accused that had questioned the locus of the women rights activists challenging their release.

The Gujarat government in its 477 page affidavit had told the SC that the state decided to release the 11 convicts on completion of their 14 years sentence as their "behaviour was found to be good" and after approval from the central government.

It also added that the opinions of the Inspector General of Prisons, Gujarat State, Jail Superintendents, Jail Advisory Committee, District Magistrate, Police Superintendent, CBI, Special Crime Branch, Mumbai and Hon. Sessions Court, Mumbai (CBI) were considered. The state also asserted that third party strangers were precluded from questioning a remission order passed by the State government which is strictly in accordance with law.

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The New Indian Express