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Bilkis Bano: Supreme Court to set up Special Bench on remission of 11 convicts

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to constitute a Special Bench to hear the petitions challenging the Gujarat government order that granted premature release to 11 people, convicted to life imprisonment for gangraping Bilkis Bano and murdering seven members of her family during the Gujarat riots 2002.

The matter was mentioned before the Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice P.S. Narasimha and Justice J.B. Pardiwala by Advocate Shobha Gupta, seeking urgent hearing and constitution of a new Bench in the case.

The CJI assured her of looking into the matter this evening.

Earlier on January 24, the hearing on Bano’s plea challenging the remission of sentence of 11 convicts could not be held in the Apex Court as the judges concerned were hearing a matter related to passive euthanasia as part of a five-judge Constitution bench.

Besides the plea challenging the release of the convicts, the gangrape survivor had also filed a separate petition seeking a review of the order passed by the top court of the country on May 13, 2022 on a plea by a convict.

Seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family were also killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

In its May 13, 2022 order, the apex court had asked the state government to consider the plea of a convict for premature release in terms of its policy of July 9, 1992 which was applicable on the date of conviction and decide it within a period of two months.

All 11 convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government and released on August 15, last year.

Bano’s review plea against the May 13, 2022 order, however, was dismissed by the top court in December last year. 

Last month also, CJI DY Chandrachud had said that he will constitute a special bench to take up the matter.

Meanwhile, Bano’s counsel Advocate Shobha Gupta claims that the matter has been mentioned 4 times earlier but is yet to be taken up for preliminary hearing and notice. 

The matter was first mentioned on November 30, 2022, whereafter it was listed before a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi & Bela N. Trivedi. Justices Rastogi had authored the previous judgment allowing Gujarat to decide the remission plea. However, Justice Trivedi recused from hearing the case. (She was deputed as Law Secretary of the Gujarat Government during 2004-2006.)

The matter was mentioned on December 14, 2022 and to be tentatively listed on January 2 this year. On January 20, Gupta again mentioned the matter but it could not be heard on set dates, i.e., January 24 and January 31, due to sitting of Constitution bench.

On February 7, the CJI agreed to constitute a special bench to hear the pleas. “BUT matter not listed and no date is being shown despite the passing of 41 days since last mentioning,” Gupta said.

In May 2022, the Bench led by Justice Rastogi had ruled that the Gujarat Government had the jurisdiction to consider the remission request as the offence took place in Gujarat.

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