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Bilkis Bano gangrape case: Supreme Court to constitute Special Bench for hearing petitions challenging remission

The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to constitute a Special Bench to hear the petitions challenging the order of Gujarat government that permitted premature release of 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment for their involvement in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The matter was mentioned by Advocate Shobha Gupta before the Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice P.S. Narasimha and Justice J.B. Pardiwala.

Appearing for Bano, Advocate Gupta urged the Apex Court to constitute a Special Bench for hearing the petitins, since Justice Ajay Rastogi was continuously sitting in a combination of himself and Justice Bela Trivedi, who had earlier recused herself from the case.

The Chief Justice agreed to constitute a special bench and stated that he would list the matter at the earliest.

On January 4 this year, Justice Bela M. Trivedi had recused herself from hearing the Public Interest Litigations concerning the issue apparently on the grounds that she was deputed as Law Secretary of the Gujarat Government during 2004-2006, when the Gujarat High Court was hearing the matter.

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, Advocate Aparna Bhat had 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 then 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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