Friday, December 8, 2023

Bilkis Bano case: Supreme Court defers hearing pleas against remission granted to convicts to July 11

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The Supreme Court deferred hearing to July 11 on a batch of petitions challenging the remission granted by the Gujarat government in 2022 to 11 people, who were convicted for their alleged involvement in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots.

The Bench of Justice K.M. Joseph, Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah on Tuesday issued notice to the convicts, who remained unserved even now.

The Apex Court directed the publication of notices in local newspapers, including in Gujarati and English, against the convicts who could not be served notices, including the one whose house was found locked by the local police and his phone was switched off.

The next date of hearing in the matter, which was fixed at July 11, shall also be published in the notices to be carried in the newspapers, ordered the top court of the country.

It said the reason behind adopting this process was that time should not be wasted on the next date of hearing and the case should proceed.

It was likely that a new Bench would hear the matter on July 11 as Justice Joseph, who was currently heading the Bench, was set to superannuate on June 16, with May 19 being his last working day.

The Supreme Court will go on summer vacation from May 20 till July 2.

Earlier on May 2, the Apex Court had deferred the hearing after counsel for some of the convicts raised objections about not being served notices on the pleas.

The Apex Court had then observed that it seemed pretty obvious that the convicts did not want the hearing to be conducted by the current Bench. 

Both the Centre and the State of Gujarat had apprised the top court of the country that they were not claiming any privilege and not filing any plea for a review of the court’s March 27 order, asking for production of the original records with regard to the remission granted to the convicts.

The Gujarat government had raised preliminary objections with regard to the petitions filed in the matter other than the one by Bano, saying that it will have wide ramifications as every now and then, third parties will approach the courts in criminal cases.

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