Tuesday, 30 May, 2023

Indian SC to form special bench to hear Bilkis Bano’s plea

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday agreed to constitute a special bench to hear a plea against the remission of sentence of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case, which also involves the killing of seven members of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, according to media reports.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala assured Bano, represented through her lawyer Shobha Gupta, that the new bench will be formed.

Gupta mentioned the matter for urgent hearing and said that a new bench needs to be constituted.

Gupta told the bench also comprising Justices P S Narasimha and J B Pardiwala that the matter was currently listed before Justice Ajay Rastogi who was sitting in combination with Justice Bela M Trivedi, who had recused from hearing it. She urged the court to set up a special bench to hear it.

Taking note, CJI Chandrachud agreed to the request and said he will list it for hearing at the earliest.

 No reasons had been given for Justice Trivedi’s recusal. She was law secretary to the Gujarat government from 2004 to 2006.

Bilkis was gang-raped and her three-year-old daughter was among 14 people killed by a mob on March 3, 2002, in the Limkheda taluka of Gujarat’s Dahod district during riots. The 11 convicts were released on August 15 last year.

Bilkis had said in her plea, “The en masse premature release of the convicts… has shaken the conscience of society”. She said the Supreme Court had earlier held in the past that en masse remissions cannot be permitted and that the case of each convict will have to be separately examined before extending the relief

She termed it as “one of the most gruesome crimes this country has ever seen” and added that the premature release of the convicts came as a shock not only to her, but to her grown-up daughters, family, and to society at large, nationally and internationally. Narrating what she went through, Bilkis said their premature release has also “relived” her “trauma”.

On December 13, 2022, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea by Bilkis, seeking a review of its May 2022 order which said the Gujarat government was the appropriate government to decide the prayer for remission by one of the 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the case, and that the state’s 1992 remission policy would apply in the matter.