‘Horrendous’: SC on Bilkis Bano case, issues notice on plea against release of 11 convicts

New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice on a petition filed by 2002 Gujarat riots victim Bilkis Bano against the premature release of 11 persons convicted of her gang-rape and murder of her family members, calling the offence “horrendous”.

A bench of Justices K.M. Joseph and B.V. Nagarathna observed that before hearing the plea, the court would like to know what is the gamut of issues, which would aid in knowing the framework within which the issues have to be considered.

Advocate Shobha Gupta, representing Bilkis Bano, submitted that the state (Maharashtra), where the trial was held should decide on the remission of the convicts, and not the state where offence was committed.

During the hearing in the matter, the bench orally observed that the offence was “horrendous”.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, representing one of the petitioners, contended that the trial judge said no remission should be granted and also the CBI said that remission should not be given, yet they were released.

As the judges queried how many years each accused had spent in jail, counsel, representing one of the convicts, said over 15 years and 14 years is the requirement for consideration under Gujarat government remission policy. However, it was contested by a counsel, representing one of the petitioners.

Grover also informed the court, while on parole, another case of molestation of a woman was filed against one of the convicts and this was completely ignored while granting remission.

A contention was made during the hearing in the matter that all the petitions against the release of 11 convicts were “emotional pleas”. However, the bench said it is only on the law and has nothing to do with emotions. Noting that the crime against Bilkis Bano and her family was horrendous one, the bench made it clear that the matter will be decided on the basis of law.

After hearing detailed submissions, the top court scheduled the matter for further hearing on April 18.

Justice Joseph observed that the court has many murder cases before it, where convicts are languishing in jails for remission without years and queried if is this a case where standards have been applied uniformly as in other cases?

The bench directed the parties involved in the matter to complete the pleadings by the next date of hearing and also asked the state government to be ready with the relevant files connected with granting remission to the convicts on the next date of hearing.

In the plea, Bilkis Bano said: “The premature release of all the convicts came as a shock not only to the petitioner, to her grown up daughters, to her family, but also to the society at large, nationally and internationally, and the society across segments had shown their anger, disappointment, distrust and protest to the clemency shown by the Government by releasing criminals like the 11 convicts of the case.”

Terming the release order mechanical, the plea contended that the premature release of the convicts in much talked about case of Bilkis Bano, has shaken the conscience of the society and resulted in several agitations across the country.

All 11 convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government and released on August 15 last year.

A batch of the petitions have been filed against the release of 11 convicts, including the one filed by Bilkis Bano. The other petitions were filed by CPI-M leader Subhashini Ali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, National Federation of Indian Women, Meeran Chadha Borwankar and others, Asma Shafique Shaikh and others. The top court has issued notice on all the pleas filed in the matter.

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