Bilkis Bano case: Supreme Court notice to 11 convicts on pleas against release
The Supreme Court asked the Gujarat government to place before it, within two weeks, all relevant records in the Bilkis Bano case and posted the matter for hearing after three weeks.
The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices on a clutch of petitions challenging the remission of 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life in 2008 for the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano and murder of seven of her family members, after the Gujarat government cleared their early release under the state’s 1992 remission policy.
The top court also asked the Gujarat government to place before it, within two weeks, all relevant records in the case and posted the matter for hearing after three weeks.
The 11 men were released on August 15 after one of them, Radheshyam Shah, approached the Supreme Court in April seeking remission, arguing that they had spent over 15 years in prison in the case.
In May, the top court directed the state government to consider their plea in accordance with the 1992 policy – the one which was prevalent on the date of their conviction. While the latest remission policy of 2014 prohibits early release of rape convicts, no such restrictions were there in the 1992 policy.
A bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and BV Nagarathna issued the notices to the 11 convicts on two petitions filed by Trinamool Congress (TMC) Member of Parliament (MP) Mahua Moitra and former Indian Police Service officer Meeran Chadha Borwankar.
“We are only concerned if there was an application of mind in granting the remission and if it was within the parameters of law,” the bench said.
In their petitions, Moita and Borwankar objected to the grant of remission, saying it required the consent of the central government as it was probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). They also mentioned the latest remission policy of 2014 in their pleas.
On August 25, the top court had issued a notice to the Centre and Gujarat government on a public interest litigation (PIL) jointly filed by former CPI MP Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul and professor Roop Rekha Verma against the premature release.
Having received no response either from the central or state government, the top court on Friday sought the same in two weeks along with records forming part of the decision to order the convicts’ release on the occasion of Independence Day.
While advocate Rishi Malhotra appeared for Shah, he accepted the notices for all other convicts.
Malhotra also said he was yet to receive instructions from the remaining 10 released men as the PIL heard by the top court on August 25 failed to add all 11 convicts as parties to the proceedings, despite a clear direction from the court. He even moved a letter of adjournment on account of this lapse by the petitioners.
The lawyer also opposed the notices on the remaining two petitions (by the TMC leader and former IPS officer), saying it would lead to “multiplicity” of cases.
Appearing for Moitra and Borwankar, senior advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Vrinda Grover said the petitions raised substantial questions of law.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, meanwhile, appeared for the original petitioners in the case.
In the last hearing, the top court had clarified that its May order did not order for the convicts’ release but directed the state to consider their remission plea.