Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Release of Bilkis Bano gangrape convicts: Justice Bela Trivedi recuses herself from hearing PILs challenging Gujarat government’s remission policy

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Supreme Court judge, Justice Bela M. Trivedi, has decided to recuse herself from taking up the PILs challenging the Gujarat government’s decision to release prematurely 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her family members during the Godhra Riots of 2002.

It was learnt that Justice Trivedi was deputed as Law Secretary of the Gujarat Government during 2004-2006.

The Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Trivedi on Wednesday took up the petitions filed by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Subhashini Ali, former Lucknow University vice-chancellor Roop Rekha Verma and journalist Revati Laul.

As per Justice Rastogi, since Justice Trivedi had earlier recused herself from hearing a petition by Bilkis Bano, she would refrain from hearing this case as well.

On December 13 last year, while sitting in the same combination with Justice Rastogi, Justice Trivedi had recused herself from hearing the writ petition filed by Bilkis against the Gujarat government’s decision to release the convicts.

Representing one of the petitioners yesterday, Advocate Aparna Bhat apprised the Bench that the pleadings were complete and the same could be kept for final hearing in February.

The Counsel appearing for the accused raised the issue of maintainability, to which Justice Ajay Rastogi replied that Bilkis had herself approached the Apex Court. 

Appearing for one of the petitioners, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi submitted that every time the matter came up for hearing, the respondents raised the issue of maintainability.

Justice Rastogi directed the parties involved to argue only on the basis of merits. He further said that the plea filed by Bilkis Bano could be tagged and made the lead matter in the batch of petitions. 
The Supreme Court Judge asked Advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing for Bilkis, to mention the matter when he was sitting in a different combination, so that it can be tagged.

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