Bilkis gangrape case: SC asks Centre, Gujarat to submit records on remission granted to convicts

Besides Bilkis, several other PILs including CPI(M)'s Subhashini Ali and TMC's Mahua Moitra have all challenged the remission granted to the convicts.
A file photo of Bilkis Bano at a press conference in New Delhi, used for representative purposes only. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)
A file photo of Bilkis Bano at a press conference in New Delhi, used for representative purposes only. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on pleas challenging the remission granted last year to all the 11 convicts in the gang-rape case of Bilkis Bano and the murder of seven of her family members during the 2002 post-Godhra Gujarat riots while asking the Centre and Gujarat government to place the original records on the remission.

A group of pleas against the relief of convicts appeared before a bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan. After hearing submissions by Bilkis Bano's counsel and lawyers for the Centre, the Gujarat government and the PIL petitioner, the bench reserved the matter.

Apart from the petition filed by Bilkis Bano, several other PILs including one by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist Revati Laul and former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma have challenged the relief.

TMC MP Mahua Moitra has also filed a PIL against the remission granted to the convicts and their premature release.

Eleven persons, convicted in the case and had been serving jail terms, were prematurely released on August 15, 2022, following a decision by the Gujarat government. A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan said that it was only considering the “correctness” of the Gujarat government’s decision to release the convicts early.

Last month, the apex court observed whether the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case had the privilege of being released on parole for several days and several times while considering the batch of pleas challenging their early release.

On August 25, raising doubts about the concurring opinions of competent authorities regarding the release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case, the Supreme Court said that the opinion should show “independent application of mind” even if it is not backed by elaborate reasons.

The court also observed that Bilkis, along with other petitioners, were not deprived of the right to move court just because the Supreme Court had earlier left it on the Gujarat government to decide on the convicts’ remission applications.

The top court had on August 17 said that state governments should not be selective in granting remission to convicts and the opportunity to reform and reintegrate with society should be given to every prisoner, as it told the Gujarat government which defended its decision of premature release of all 11 convicts.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the horror of the communal riots that broke out after the Godhra train burning incident.

Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members killed in the riots.

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