The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Gujarat government to file the entire record of the proceedings in the Bilkis Bano case, including the remission order given to the 11 convicts who had gang-raped Bano and murdered her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots.
A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and B.V. Nagarathna granted two weeks to the Gujarat government to produce all relevant records in the case. The bench also issued notice to the Gujarat government and convicts on a plea filed by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra against the release of the convicts.
Earlier, the apex court had issued notice to the Gujarat government on the plea filed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, and social activist and professor Roop Rekha Verma. It asked the petitioner to impede convicts in the petition.
The plea has sought setting aside of order granting remission to 11 convicts and directing their immediate re-arrest.
“It is submitted that it would appear that the constitution of members of the competent authority of the Gujarat government also bore allegiance to a political party and sitting MLAs. As such, it would appear that the competent authority was not an authority that was entirely independent, and one that could independently apply its mind to the facts at hand,” the plea stated.
The plea filed by the three women said they had challenged the order of competent authority of the government of Gujarat by way of which 11 persons who were accused in a set of heinous offences committed in Gujarat were allowed to walk free on 15 August 2022, pursuant to remission being extended to them.
“The 11 persons were sentenced to life imprisonment for commission of the offences of, among other things, gang-rape and murder of multiple people during the large-scale communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 on 18 January 2008, passed by the Sessions Court in Greater Mumbai and the conviction was upheld by way of Judgment dated 4 May 2017, passed by High Court of Mumbai,” the petition stated.
The petition said the case which led to the conviction of the 11 convicts was investigated by the CBI, accordingly, the grant of remission solely by the Gujarat government without any consultation with the Central government is impermissible in terms of the mandate of Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
The remission in this heinous case would be entirely against public interest and would shock the collective public conscience, as also be entirely against the interests of the victim (whose family has publicly made statements worrying for her safety), the plea stated.
“It is submitted that on such facts (facts of the case), no right thinking authority applying any test under any extant policy would consider it fit to grant remission to persons who are found to have been involved in the commission of such gruesome acts,” said the plea.
The Gujarat government released the 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, on 15 August. 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.