NEW DELHI: In a significant development, the Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the parole given to the 11 convicts by the Gujarat government in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case, saying the gravity of the offence should have been considered by the state. The Supreme Court, while stating that “like apples cannot be compared with oranges, similarly a massacre cannot be compared with single murder,’’ and opined that the crime in question was “horrendous” and it’s imperative for the Gujarat Govt to show the application of mind in allowing the pre-mature release of the 11 loge convicts.
The top court also questioned the Centre and the Gujarat governments for not showing to it the files of the remission. On their part, the Centre and the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that they may file a review of the March 27 order whereby the court sought original files on remission to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.
Supreme Court then fixed the next hearing in the Bilkis Bano case on May 2.
Bilkis Bano case hearing in SC | Supreme Court questions governments for not showing to it the files of the remission. Supreme Court observed that the crime was “horrendous”.
Centre, Gujarat government tells SC that they may file a review of March 27 order whereby Court sought…
— ANI (@ANI) April 18, 2023
Horrendous Crime, Says SC
During a previous hearing in March this year, the Supreme Court had asked the Gujarat government whether uniform standards, as followed in other cases of murder, were applied while granting remission to 11 convicts in the Bilkis case. The top court, which at the same time clarified that it would not be overwhelmed by emotions in the case and would only go by the law, also directed the Gujarat government to present all the relevant documents on April 18, the next date of hearing.
A bench of Justices K M Joseph and B V Nagarathna issued notice to the Centre, Gujarat government and the convicts on the plea filed by Bano and asked the parties to complete the pleadings by the next date of hearing. “It is a very horrendous act. We have an experience of people coming to this court saying they have been languishing in jails for ordinary cases of murder and their remission is not being considered. So is this a case where the standards have been adopted uniformly as in other cases” the bench remarked orally.
Bano had moved the apex court on November 30 last year challenging the ‘premature’ release of 11 lifers by the state government, saying it has ‘shaken the conscience of society’. The 11 men convicted in the case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 last year, after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. They had completed more than 15 years in jail.
A bench of Justices K M Joseph and B V Nagarathna issued notice to the Centre, Gujarat government and the convicts on the plea filed by Bano and asked the parties to complete the pleadings by the next date of hearing. As the hearing commenced, the bench said there is a gamut of issues involved and it needed to hear the matter in detail.
All the 11 convicts in the Bilkis case were granted remission by the Gujarat government and released on August 15 last year. The top court is seized of PILs filed by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, Revati Laul, an independent journalist, Roop Rekha Verma, who is a former vice chancellor of the Lucknow University, and TMC MP Mahua Moitra against the release of the convicts.
Bilkis Bano, the main petitioner in the case, was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the riots that broke out after the Godhra train burning incident. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members killed.