Bilkis Bano case: SC to hear plea against early release of 11 convicts on March 27
The Gujarat government had approved the release of the 11 men convicted for gangrape and murder on grounds of good behaviour during their prison time.
The Supreme Court on Friday set up a bench to hear a batch of petitions challenging the premature release of 11 convicts in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of 14 persons during the 2002 Gujarat riots, reported Bar and Bench.
A division bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and KM Joseph will hear the petitions on March 27. On Wednesday, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud had agreed to form a special bench to hear the matter as Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela Trivedi chose to recuse themselves from the case.
The matter was originally needed to be placed before a bench led by Justice Rastogi as he had written the judgement in May last year which allowed the Gujarat government to decide on the premature release of the convicts, according to Live Law.
The 11 men had been convicted for gangraping Bano in a village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002, during the communal riots in Gujarat. She was 19 and pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family were also killed in the violence, including her three-year-old daughter whose head was smashed against the ground by the perpetrators.
The convicts were released on August 15 from a Godhra jail after the Gujarat government approved their application under its remission policy.
Also read: Gujarat ignored trial court’s opinion as board with five BJP members set Bilkis Bano convicts free
The development came after a bench of the Supreme Court in held that the Gujarat government had the jurisdiction to decide on remission as the crime took place in that state. It overturned a verdict of the Gujarat High Court saying that the Maharashtra government had the authority to decide on remission, as the trial was held in Mumbai.
In November, Bano had moved the top court challenging the premature release of the convicts. She had also filed a review petition against the Supreme Court’s judgement allowing the Gujarat government to decide on the remission of the life-term sentences of the convicts.
The court clubbed Bano’s petition with two other pleas filed by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Subhasini Ali, journalist and filmmaker Revati Laul as well as Professor Roop Rekha Varma, challenging the early release of the convicts.
An affidavit submitted by the Gujarat government in the Supreme Court in October showed that the central government’s Minister of Home Affairs had also endorsed the premature release of the convicts. The state said its decision to release the convicts was based on them spending 14 years in jail and their good behaviour during their time in prison.
Also read: Gujarat has set bad precedent by releasing Bilkis Bano case convicts, says judge who sentenced them