SC Special Bench to Hear Pleas Against Bilkis Bano Convicts
Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud said on Wednesday that a Supreme Court (SC) Special Bench would be constituted to hear a bunch of pleas challenging the Gujarat government’s order allowing the premature release of 11 convicts sentenced to life for gang-raping Bilkis Bano and murdering seven members of her family in Limkheda taluka, Dahod, on March 3, 2002, during the Godhra riots.
“I will have a Bench constituted. Will look at it this evening,” the CJI said after Bilkis’s counsel Shobha Gupta raised the matter during the mentioning hours, The Indian Express reported. Last month too, CJI Chandrachud had said that he would constitute a Special Bench to take up the matter, according to a LiveLaw report.
The convicts were released on August 15, 2022, after the Gujarat government allowed their remission applications, triggering a massive outrage.
In an affidavit filed before the SC, the state government had said that the decision was taken after the Centre’s approval considering the convicts’ good behaviour and the completion of 14-year sentence despite the objection of the CBI and the Presiding Judge of the Special CBI Court in Mumbai.
Subsequently, several PILs questioning the relief granted to the convicts were filed in the apex court. Bilkis also challenged the convicts’ premature release in the top court.
Appearing before a Bench of CJI Chandrachud and Justices PS Narsimha and JB Pardiwala, Gupta said that the matter was mentioned four times earlier but is yet to be taken up for preliminary hearing and notice.
The matter was first mentioned on November 30, 2022, and later listed before a Bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and BN Trivedi.
Justice Rastogi had ruled in May 2022 allowing Gujarat to decide the remission plea as the offence occurred in the state. Justice Trivedi, law secretary to the Gujarat government from 2004 to 2006, recused from hearing the case without providing any reason.
Subsequently, the matter was mentioned on December 14, 2022, and was listed for a hearing on January 2 this year. On January 20, when Gupta again mentioned the matter, it could not be heard on the set dates—January 24 and January 31—due to sitting of Constitution Bench.
When the CJI finally agreed to constitute a Special Bench on February 7, “the matter was not listed and no date is being shown despite passing of 41 days since last mentioning”, Gupta said.
The top court had dismissed Bilkis’s plea seeking a review of the May 2022 order on December 13, 2022. In her plea, Bilkis said: “The en masse premature release of the convicts has shaken the conscience of society” adding that the SC had held in the past that en masse remissions cannot be permitted.
Equating the premature release of the convicts to reliving her trauma, Bilkis termed the crime as “one of the most gruesome crimes this country has ever seen”.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.