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Bilkis Bano Moves SC, Challenges Premature Release of 11 Convicts

She has also sought the review of the Supreme Court's earlier judgment that allowed the Gujarat government to make a decision on the remission of the convicts
Bilkis Bano. In the background is the Supreme Court. Photos: PTI

New Delhi: Bilkis Bano has approached the Supreme Court challenging the premature release of 11 convicts who gang-raped her and killed her family members, including her three-old daughter in 2002. She has also sought the review of the Supreme Court’s earlier judgment that allowed the Gujarat government to make a decision on the remission of the convicts, LiveLaw reported.

Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said he will look into the matter today, November 30 evening, and decide on the listing of the petitions.

Advocate Shoba Gupta, appearing on behalf of Bano, sought to know from the CJI if the matter would come up before a bench headed by Justice Ajay Rastogi since he is now part of a constitutional bench hearing.

Justice Rastogi had earlier authored the verdict that allowed the Gujarat government to consider remission pleas of the convicts, which Bano has opposed. Bano’s advocate, Gupta, urged the CJI that the matter be heard in an open court.

To this, CJI said, “Only court can decide that. The review has to be heard first. Let it come before Justice Rastogi.”

The convicts walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15, after a Gujarat government panel approved their application for remission of sentence under the state’s 1992 remission policy.

In May, a bench led by Justice Rastogi had said that the Gujarat government had the jurisdiction to consider the remission pleas of the convicts since the crime took place in Gujarat. The apex court bench had overturned Gujarat high court’s earlier ruling that remission pleas must be considered by the state of Maharashtra since the trial was transferred out of Gujarat.

The premature release of convicts on August 15 set off a huge controversy, with political parties and civil society organisations demanding the decision be rolled back. The convicts, in fact, received a ‘heroic welcome’ amidst fanfare, triggering controversy.

In the aftermath of their release, several activists and leaders from opposition parties moved the Supreme Court challenging the Gujarat government’s decision to set convicts free.

When the matter came up for hearing, the state government in its affidavit told the court that the release of convicts was based on their “good behaviour” and that they had already spent 18 years in jail. It had also told the court that the decision had the approval of the Union home ministry.

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