Bilkis Bano case: SC issues notice on Bano’s plea against pre-mature release of 11 convicts

27 March, 2023 | Pragati Singh

Bilkis National

The Gujarat government released the 11 convicts who had been sentenced to life in prison.

On a petition filed by Bilkis Bano challenging the premature release of 11 convicts who gang-raped her and murdered her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre, the Gujarat government, and all the convicts on Monday. The matter was scheduled for hearing on April 18 by a bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna.

It requested that the Union and Gujarat governments have the relevant files granting remission to the convicts ready for the next date of hearing. The Supreme Court also ordered that the pleadings in the case be completed by the next hearing date. The Supreme Court stated that there are numerous issues at stake and that the case must be heard in its entirety.

During the hearing, Justice Joseph asked, “We have before us many murder cases where convicts are languishing in jails for remission without years. Is this a case where standards have been applied uniformly as in other cases too?”

Previously, a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi ordered that the matter be heard by a bench that does not include Justice Trivedi because she recused herself from hearing the case. Bano had filed a review petition seeking a review of its earlier order in which it had asked the Gujarat government to consider the plea for the remission of one of the convicts, in addition to a petition against the pre-mature release of convicts.

The petition for review was denied.

PILs were filed in order to revoke the remission granted to 11 convicts. The National Federation of Indian Women, whose General Secretary is Annie Raja, the Communist Party of India (MarxistSubhashini )’s Ali, journalist Revati Laul, social activist and professor Roop Rekha Verma, and TMC MP Mahua Moitra filed the petitions.

In its affidavit, the Gujarat government defended the remission granted to convicts, claiming that they had served 14 years of their sentence and their “behaviour was found to be good.”

The state government stated that it considered the cases of all 11 convicts in accordance with the 1992 policy, and remission was granted on August 10, 2022, and the central government also approved the early release of convicts.

Remission in this heinous case would be entirely against the public interest and would shock the collective public conscience, as well as entirely against the interests of the victim (whose family has publicly expressed concern about her safety), according to the pleas.

On August 15, the Gujarat government released the 11 convicts who had been sentenced to life in prison. All 11 life-term convicts in the case were released under Gujarat’s remission policy at the time of their conviction in 2008.

During the post-Godhra riots in March 2002, Bano was allegedly gang-raped and abandoned with 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter. Rioters attacked her family in Vadodara while she was five months pregnant.