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Where have you used your brain? In the Bilkis Bano case, the Supreme Court heard the Gujarat government thoroughly

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Gujarat government’s response to the petitions challenging the release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case was “very boring” in which several judgments were cited but factual statements were missing. The top court gave time to the petitioners to file their reply on the Gujarat government’s affidavit. The court said it will hear on November 29 the petitions challenging the remission and release of the convicts in the 2002 case. The case pertains to the riots in Gujarat in which seven members of Bilkis’s family were killed.

Where is this cumbersome answer, factual statement?
A bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice CT Ravi Kumar said that I have not seen any counter affidavit where several court decisions have been cited. A factual statement should have been made. This is a very cumbersome answer. He asked, ‘Where is the factual statement, where is the use of the mind?’ The bench directed that the reply of the Gujarat government be made available to all the parties. Senior CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali and two other women have filed a public interest litigation against the remission and release of the convicts. Initially, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that they need time to file their reply.

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Next hearing on November 29
Justice Rastogi said that before he could read the reply of the Gujarat government, it was appearing in the newspapers. He told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that he had not seen any counter-affidavit in which several judgments were cited. Mehta agreed to this and said that it could have been avoided. “The decisions were mentioned for easy reference, it could have been avoided,” he said. The Solicitor General said that strangers and third parties cannot challenge the exemption and release of the convicts. The top court then granted time to the petitioners and fixed November 29 for hearing the matter.

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sentence was completed, good conduct
The Gujarat government had defended in the Supreme Court its decision to release the convicts as per the 1992 exemption policy. The government had said that the convicts had completed more than 14 years in jail. His conduct was found to be good. It also clarified that the convicts were not exempted as per the circular on the release of prisoners under the ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ celebrations. The state home department said that all the convicts have completed jail term of more than 14 years under life imprisonment.

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There was opposition to the premature release of the convicts
“As per the policy dated July 9, 1992, the opinion of the concerned officers was taken and submitted to the Union Home Ministry vide letter dated June 28, 2022 and its approval/suitable orders were sought,” the affidavit said. The Gujarat government told the apex court that the Union Home Ministry vide letter dated July 11, 2022 approved the premature release of the convicts. The reply also said that the proposal for early release of the convicts was opposed by the SP, CBI, Special Crime Branch, Mumbai and the Special Civil Judge (CBI), City Civil and Sessions Court, Greater Bombay.

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7 people were killed in the rioting of Bilquis’s family
Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant at the time of the communal riots that broke out in Gujarat after the Godhra train burning incident. During this she was gang-raped and seven members of her family, including a three-year-old daughter, were killed. The 11 convicted in the case were released from the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release as part of the release policy. The investigation of the case was handed over to the CBI and the Supreme Court transferred the trial to a court in Maharashtra.

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11 people were sentenced to life imprisonment
A special CBI court in Mumbai had on January 21, 2008 sentenced 11 people to life imprisonment for the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of seven members of his family. His sentence was later upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. The Gujarat government had responded to a PIL filed by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist Revati Laul and former Lucknow University vice-chancellor Roop Rekha Verma.

Question was raised on the jurisdiction of public interest litigation
The affidavit said that since the petitioners are strangers and third parties in the case, they have no right to challenge the order of remission of sentence issued by the competent authority. The state government had said that it is of the view that the present petition is nothing but an abuse of the PIL jurisdiction of this court and is motivated by a “political conspiracy”. Convict Radheshyam also questioned the jurisdiction of the petitioners challenging the remission given to him and 10 other convicts, saying on September 25 that the petitioners were “complete strangers” in the matter. On August 25, the top court had sought response from the Center and the Gujarat government on a plea challenging the exemption granted to the 11 convicts in the case.



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