The Supreme Court will hear on March 27, the petition filed by Bilkis Bano, challenging the Gujarat government’s decision to grant premature release to 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment for gangraping Bilkis and murdering seven members of her family during the 2002 Godhra riots.
The new bench comprising Justice KM Joseph and Justice BV Nagarathna will hear the matter on Monday.
The matter had earlier come up before a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela Trivedi when the latter chose to recuse from the case.
The Supreme Court had, on August 25 last year, sought the response of the Gujarat government on the batch of pleas in the matter.
The 11 convicts who were set free are Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana.
Bano was gangraped in the aftermath of the 2002 riots and her three-year-old-daughter was among 12 people killed by a mob.
In January 2008, a special CBI court convicted 13 accused, out of which eleven were sentenced to life imprisonment on the charge of gangrape and murder.
In May 2017, the conviction order was upheld by the Bombay High Court. In 2019, the Supreme Court directed the State of Gujarat to provide ₹50 lakh compensation to Bano as well as a government job and accommodation.
However, the top court, on May 13 last year, ruled that remission of the convicts in the case should be considered as per the the policy existing at the time of conviction in the State where the crime was actually committed.
The top court was considering a petition filed by one of the convicts, Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah @ Lala Vakil seeking direction to the State of Gujarat to consider his application for premature release under the policy dated July 9, 1992 which was existing at the time of his conviction.
The petitioner was serving rigorous imprisonment for life after being found guilty of offences under Sections 302, 376(2)(e)(g) read with Section 149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
He filed a petition for premature release under Sections 433 and 433A of the CrPC seeking premature release stating that he had undergone more than 15 years and 4 months in jail.
But his petition filed before the Gujarat High Court came to be dismissed on the ground that since the trial has been concluded in the State of Maharashtra, the application for premature release has to be filed in the Maharashtra and not in Gujarat.
The Supreme Court in its May 2022 judgment, however, held that the crime was admittedly committed in Gujarat and ordinarily the trial was to be concluded in the same State and in terms of Section 432(7) CrPC, the appropriate government in the ordinary course to decide on plea for remission would be the Gujarat government.
Therefore, since the crime happened in Gujarat, all further proceedings including plea for remission has to be considered as per the policy of Gujarat government.
Pursuant to the May 13 judgment of the top court, the Gujarat government granted remission to 11 convicts.
The convicts, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, were released by the Gujarat government ahead of the assembly polls in the State.
This led to the present plea by Bano before the top court.
In December last year, a bench led by Justice Rastogi had dismissed the review petition filed by Bano challenging the apex court’s May 2022 judgement.