This Article is From Jul 17, 2023

Supreme Court's Final Hearing On Bilkis Bano Case Convicts On August 7

A bench of justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan noted that the pleadings have been completed and all the convicts have been served notices through newspaper publications or directly.

Supreme Court's Final Hearing On Bilkis Bano Case Convicts On August 7

Bilkis Bano has filed a writ petition challenging the remissions. (File)

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Monday fixed August 7 for the start of the final hearing on a batch of pleas challenging the remission granted last year to all the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case and murder of seven of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

A bench of justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan noted that the pleadings have been completed and notices served on all the convicts.

"We hold that pleadings in the matter are complete and all the respondents have been served notices in all the cases though newspaper publications or directly. We list the matter for final hearing on August 7. All parties should file short written submissions, synopsis and list of dates," the bench said.

During the hearing, advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing for Bilkis Bano, said notices were published in local newspapers on June 1 and she had filed an affidavit with regard to that on June 7.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising and advocate Vrinda Grover, also appearing for the petitioners, said in their cases also notices were published as directed by the top court.

Grover said she needs to place on record the original remission order of the Gujarat government and sought permission of the court to place some additional documents on record.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Gujarat government and the Centre, said although the original remission order has been placed on record by the state, if the petitioners want to place it themselves, he has no problem with that.

The bench said since the matter was listed for directions, it is fixing August 7 as the date for the final hearing and the parties, who wish to file their replies, written submissions, synopsis, and list of dates, are at liberty to do so.

"Your written submissions should focus on some main issues and arguments," the bench told the counsel for the petitioners and granted them three weeks to file their replies.

It also allowed the convicts to file their counter affidavits on the petitions challenging the remission.

On May 9, the top court had 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 by the local police to be locked and his phone switched off.

The top court had on May 2 deferred the hearing after some of the counsel for the convicts raised objections about they not being served notices on the pleas challenging the remission granted to them.

The Centre and the Gujarat government had told the court 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 Bilkis Bano, saying it will have wide ramifications as every now and then third parties will approach courts in criminal cases.

The top court had on April 18 questioned the Gujarat government over the remission granted to the 11 convicts, saying the gravity of the offence should have been considered before showing leniency, and wondered if there was any application of mind.

Asking for reasons for the premature release of the convicts, the top court had also questioned frequent parole granted to them during their incarceration.

"It (remission) is a kind of grace, which should be proportional to the crime," it had said.

The Centre and the Gujarat government had then told the court they might file a plea seeking a review of its March 27 order asking them to be ready with the original files on the grant of remission.

Terming Bilkis Bano's gang-rape and the murder of her family members during the 2002 post-Godhra riots a "horrendous" act, the supreme court had on March 27 asked the Gujarat government whether uniform standards, as followed in other murder cases, were applied while granting remission to the convicts.

It had sought the responses of the Centre, the Gujarat government and others on the plea filed by Bilkis Bano, who has challenged the remission of the sentences. All 11 convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government and released on August 15 last year.

Besides Bilkis Bano's petition, several other PILs including one by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist Revati Laul, former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma have challenged the remission. Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra has also filed a PIL against the remission.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the horror of the communal riots that broke out after the Godhra train-burning incident. Her three-year-old daughter was among seven family members killed in the riots.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)