'Enmasse premature release of convicts shook conscience of society', Bilkis Bano in Supreme Court
Bilkis Bano has moved the Supreme Court against the release of 11 men convicted of gang-raping her during the 2002 Gujarat riots, who are also accused of mutliple murders
New Delhi: Bilkis Bano has moved the Supreme Court against the release of 11 men convicted of gang-raping her during the 2002 Gujarat riots, who are also accused of mutliple murders, saying the release of the convicts came as a shock not only to the petitioner, to her grown-up daughters and to her family, but also to the society at large, both nationally and internationally.
Bano, in the petition filed through advocate Shobha Gupta, said: "The premature release of all the convicts came as a shock not only to the petitioner, to her grown-up daughters and to her family, but also to the society at large, nationally and internationally, and the society across segments has expressed its anger, disappointment, distrust and protest to the clemency shown by the government by releasing criminals like the 11 convicts in the case."
Terming the release order mechanical, the plea said the enmasse premature release of the convicts in the much talked-about case has shaken the conscience of the society and resulted in a number of agitations across the country.
The plea contended that the shocking news of premature release of all the convicts, including the writ petitioner, was revealed to the present petitioner and public at large when the convicts were honoured and photographed in full public glare.
Bano said she is extremely hurt, disturbed and full of dejection with the early release and sudden and traumatising presence of 11 of her rapists, who brutally gang-raped her while she was five months pregnant, and inflicted on her person and soul extreme level of violence and brutality.
The plea submitted that the petitioner approached the state (Gujarat) government requesting for the papers/entire file relating to premature release of all the convicts, but despite reminders, nothing came from the government, much less a response.
The plea added that the prosecuting agency, CBI, and the special CBI court in Mumbai had also declined to grant premature release to the convicts noting that the crime was heinous and gruesome.
Objecting to the release of the 11 convicts, the plea said, "This court holding that the 'State of Gujarat is the appropriate government and not the State of Maharashtra where the case was transferred only for the purpose of trial', in respectful submission of this petitioner, is in complete contrast and per-incuriam to the settled position of law laid down by this court."
Bano also filed a separate plea seeking review of the May 13, 2022 decision of the Supreme Court, which allowed the Gujarat government to take a decision on August 10 on remission of the sentence of the convicts.
The review petition said, "It took enormous efforts and time for the present review petitioner - victim of one of the most gruesome and inhuman communal hate crime this country has ever witnessed - to collect courage and regroup herself to decide to hold the baton once again, after just getting over with the extremely excruciating 17-year long legal battle in ensuring that her culprits are punished for the egregious crime they had committed. Thus, the delay in filing the present review petition."
During the day, Gupta, representing Bano, mentioned the matter before a bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud. Gupta contended that chances are slim that the bench led by Justice Ajay Rastogi would be able to hear the matter, as he is now a part of a Constitution bench hearing.
The Chief Justice said that the review has to be heard first, and let it come before Justice Rastogi.
Gupta submitted that the matter has to be heard in an open court. The Chief Justice said only the court can decide that, and added that he will decide on the listing after looking into the matter.
In May this year, the apex court had ruled that the Gujarat government can consider the remission request as the offence took place in Gujarat. Based on this ruling, the Gujarat government decided to release all the 11 convicts.
The high court had held that the Maharashtra government should consider the remission since the trial in the case was conducted there after transfer from Gujarat.
A clutch of petitions were filed in the apex court challenging the state government's order to release the 11 convicts. The Gujarat government had told the apex court that it decided to release the 11 convicts as they had completed 14 years and more in prison, and their behaviour was found to be good, and also the Centre had conveyed its concurrence/approval.