The remission granted by the Gujarat Government to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case has been challenged before the Supreme Court.
Advocate Aparna Bhat mentioned the matter before the Chief Justice of India today morning seeking an urgent listing tomorrow. CJI NV Ramana agreed to look into the matter. CJI Ramana asked if they were granted remission by virtue of a Supreme Court order.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal replied that the Supreme Court merely directed to consider the matter. “The Supreme Court gave discretion to the government to consider it. The bench was of Justice Ajay Rastogi. We are challenging the remission, not the order of SC”, Sibal submitted.
The petition challenging the pre-mature release of the convicts has been filed by Subhashini Ali, a member of the Communist Party of India(Marxist), journalist Revati Laul and Professor Roop Rekha Verma.
Mahua Moitra Moves to Supreme Court
Mahua Moitra has moved the Supreme Court challenging the release of all 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano Case on remission by the Gujarat government.
Story Behind Bilkis Bano’s rape case
The crime, which happened during the 2002 Gujarat riots, relates to the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the 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 Maharashtra by the Supreme Court. In 2008, a sessions court in Mumbai convicted 11 persons for gang rape and murder and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The conviction was upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.
On August 15, 2022, all the convicts were released from jail in Godhra, after being granted remission by the Gujarat Government. In May 2022, the Supreme Court held that Gujarat Government was the appropriate government to consider the remission in the case and directed that the remission applications be decided within 2 months. The premature release of these convicts sparked widespread outrage.
Criminal law expert Senior Advocate Rebecca M John opined that the Supreme Court erred in holding that Gujarat has the jurisdiction to grant remission because as per Section 432(7) CrPC, it is the state where the trial was held that has the power to decide remission. So, the Maharashtra Government is the “appropriate government” to consider the issue of remission.
The public interest litigation states that the victim has legitimate apprehensions regarding the safety of her and her family members.
“The release completely fails to bolster either social or human justice and does not constitute a valid exercise of the guided discretionary power of the State under Sections 432-435 Cr.P.C.,” it states.
The PIL also mentions that the case was investigated by the CBI and thus, the Gujarat government has no power to grant remission/premature release under Section 432 CrPC without the express concurrence of the Central Government. It adds that releasing all 11 convicts on premature release on the same day clearly indicates that the State Government has mechanically granted “wholesale” release without considering each individual case on merits.