Bilkis Bano gang-rape: SC reserved its order on pleas challenging premature release of convicts

Debjit Mukherjee: Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order on pleas challenging the premature release of convicts in Bilkis Bano gang-rape case. The Supreme Court directed the Centre, Gujarat government to submit by October 16 original records related to remission of sentence of convicts in Bilkis Bano case.

A bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan reserved its order on the pleas challenging the remission granted to the convicts after hearing submissions by Bilkis Bano’s counsel and lawyers for the Centre, the Gujarat government and the PIL petitioners.

Besides the petition filed by Bilkis Bano contesting the remission granted to them by the Gujarat government, several other PILs including one by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist Revati Laul and former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma have challenged the relief. TMC MP Mahua Moitra has also filed a PIL against the remission granted to the convicts and their premature release.

The Gujarat government released the 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, on August 15, 2022. All the 11 life-term convicts in the case were released as per the remission policy prevalent in Gujarat at the time of their conviction in 2008.

In March 2002 during the post-Godhra riots, Bano was allegedly gang-raped and left to die with 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter. She was five months pregnant when rioters attacked her family in Vadodara.

Bilkis Bano and others had approached the top court challenging the premature release of 11 convicts. Some PILs were filed seeking directions to revoke the remission granted to 11 convicts.

Earlier, the Gujarat government in its affidavit had defended remission granted to convicts saying they completed 14 years of sentence in prison and their “behaviour was found to be good”.

The State government had said it has considered the cases of all 11 convicts as per the policy of 1992 and remission was granted on August 10, 2022, and the Central government also approved the release of convicts.