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Bilkis Bano case: SC issues notice on pleas challenging premature release of 11 convicts

Mangalore Today News Network

New Delhi, Mar 27, 2023: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre, state of Gujarat and 11 convicts on the petition filed by Bilkis Bano challenging the premature release of the convicts in the rape and murder case during the 2002 Gujarat riots.


Bilkis Bano

A bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna issued the notices and posted the case for a detailed hearing from April 18.

The bench described the crime committed by the convicts as horrendous and said that it would not be overwhelmed by emotions.

During the hearing, the bench asked Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, who was appearing for Centre, whether they were consulted before the remission was granted.

The ASG told the bench that the Centre was duly consulted.

To this, Justice Joseph told counsel for the state of Gujarat to keep all the files regarding the release of the convicts ready at the next date of hearing.

The court, while slating the matter for April 18, made it clear that it will first draw up the gamut within which the hearing has to be conducted.

Justice Joseph also told the lawyers appearing in the case that the matter needed to be concluded before June, as he was retiring by then.

The court also asked the Gujarat government if the state could apply the remission policy like this when even murder convicts were languishing in jail for years.

The court also asked about the criminal background of the convicts who were released.

At this, Advocate Vrinda Grover, who was appearing for one of the PIL petitioners in the case, told the bench that during their parole some of the convicts had also been charged with molestation.

Justice Nagarathna also asked about the remission policy based on which relief was granted to the 11 convicts in the instant case.

Advocate Grover responded that though it was granted on the basis of the 1992 policy, there is also a 2014 policy where such remission was against both the central and state remission policy.

The 2014 policy mentions that rape-and-murder convicts cannot be released by the state government. However, the 1992 policy did not clearly categorise convicts as eligible or not eligible for early release from prison.

Opposing Grover’s submissions, Advocate Rishi Malhotra, who was appearing for one of the convicts in the case, said, "This court has held in its judgment that remission which exists during conviction has to be adopted, so it is the 1992 one in this case."

To this, Justice Joseph said, "This was a horrendous offence, and for murder cases convicts are languishing in jails without remission. So, is this a case where the standards have been adopted uniformly?"

Responding to the judge’s query, Malhotra said a detailed advisory board was formed and it had a wide variety of members from social workers to experts, and the board considered everything.

"In this case, the convicts have undergone 15.5 years of actual sentence and the requirement for remission is 14," Malhotra said.

The crime, which happened during the 2002 Gujarat riots, relates to the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and 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 Maharahstra 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.

Courtesy: India Today

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