Bilkis Bano Case: Supreme Court Will Hear Plea Against Convicts’ Release

Bilkis Bano Case: 11 convicts were granted premature release. (File)

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court today agreed to consider listing a plea challenging the grant of remission to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. The top court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo Member Subhashini Ali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and one other petitioner.

A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana took note of the submissions of senior advocates Kapil Sibal (appearing for Ms Ali) and Abhishek Singhvi (appearing for Ms Moitra), and lawyer Aparna Bhat against the grant of remission and consequent release of the convicts in the case.

“We are only challenging the remission and not the Supreme Court order. The Supreme Court order is fine, My Lords. We are challenging the principles on the basis of which remission was granted,” Mr Sibal said.

All the eleven convicts sentenced to life imprisonment were freed after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy on August 15 amid a massive outcry. Visuals of them being garlanded and offered sweets caused an uproar on social media.

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, sentenced the eleven accused to life imprisonment on the charge of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.

Bilkis Bano, who was pregnant at the time, was gang-raped and her three-year-old daughter Saleha was among 14 killed by a mob on March 3, 2002, in Dahod during violence that broke out across the state after the Sabarmati Express was attacked in Godhra and 59 passengers, mainly ‘kar sewaks’, were burnt to death.

The 11 convicts who were granted premature release are Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana.

These convicts had served more than 15 years in jail after which one of them approached the Supreme Court with a plea for his premature release.

The top court had directed the Gujarat government to look into the issue of remission of his sentence following which the government formed a committee.