India

A petition against the release of 11 defendants who have raped and killed Bilkis Bano will be heard by the Supreme Court

As a result of being gang-raped during the Gujarat riots when she was pregnant and her three-year-old daughter being among those killed by a mob, Bilkis Bano entered a lawsuit against 11 men following the remission of their life sentences in the 2002 case.

It was “mechanical… completely lacking in regard for the law” that the convicts were released prematurely, according to Bilkis.

Separately, she also sought a review of the Supreme Court’s May 13, 2022 ruling stating that the Gujarat government has the authority to decide a convict’s plea for remission┬áin accordance with the 1992 remission policy of the state.

It was decided that the two petitions would be heard by a bench consisting of the Chief Justice of India, D Y Chandrachud, and Justice P S Narasimha. In its order of May 13, the bench stated that “the review must be heard first” and that it would be heard by the bench presided over by Justice Ajay Rastogi.

A petition filed by Bilkis opposing the remission of life sentences stated that the enmasse premature release of convicts has shaken society’s conscience. The Supreme Court has, in the past, ruled that enmasse remission cannot be permitted and that each convict’s case must be reviewed separately before relief is granted.

The premature release of the convicts, she said, was “one of the most gruesome crimes this country has ever seen”. Not only did she find it shocking, but also her grown-up daughters, her family, and society as a whole.

In the gangrape case, Bilkis Bano has petitioned the Supreme Court challenging the release of the 11 convicts. (Deccan Era File Photo)

Following the early release of the 11 convicts, she stated that she was “shell shocked, completely numb… extremely, extremely hurt, disturbed, and filled with dejection.”. In describing what she experienced, she described how their release “relieved” her trauma.

Bilkis filed a review petition alleging that the convict whose plea was the basis for the Supreme Court’s May 13 decision had not made her a party to his plea and as a result, she was completely unaware of his petition and the court order following which the state government released the 11 convicts.

It is her contention that Gujarat’s decision to release them early falls victim to nonapplication of mind since the convict failed to disclose “relevant facts and aspects of vital importance” to the Supreme Court, including the nature of the crime and her identity.

According to her, the language of the law clearly indicates that the state where the accused was convicted and sentenced should be able to decide matters of remission and not the state where the crime was committed or the accused resided.

As a result of the riots on March 3, 2002, Bilkis and her three-year-old daughter were among 14 people who were killed by a mob in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district.

On August 15 of this year, 11 convicts were released from prison.

Two petitions have already been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the release of the 11 convicts – one by CPM leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, and academician Roop Rekha Verma, and the other by TMC MP Mahua Moitra. According to the petitioners, the state granted remission without the federal government’s approval.

Responding to the court, the Gujarat government stated that, under its 1992 remission policy, the Union Home Ministry had approved its decision to accept the request for the premature release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.

Moreover, the state argued that the Superintendent of Police of the CBI, Special Crime Branch, Mumbai, as well as the Special Civil Judge (CBI), City Civil and Sessions Court, Greater Bombay, were opposed to their release. Due to the fact that the trial was conducted in Mumbai, the Civil Judge agreed that the Maharashtra government policy of April 2008 ought to be applied to their case.

In its decision to accept the request for premature release, the state consulted seven authorities – the Inspector General of Prisons, Gujarat, the Superintendents of Jails, the Jail Advisory Committee, the District Magistrate, the Superintendent of Police, the CBI, the Special Crime Branch, Mumbai, and the Sessions Court, Mumbai (CBI). There was a positive opinion on the request for release from five of the seven members, the company reported.

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