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"At least, it does hold some hope for justice": CPI(M) leader after SC cancels Gujarat order in Bilkis Bano case

New Delhi: Communist Party of India (Marxist) senior leader Brinda Karat on Monday welcomed the Supreme Court's order in the Bilkis Bano case, wherein the apex court cancelled an order passed by the Gujarat government to release 11 men convicted in the case.
Brinda Karat, while speaking to ANI, said that the judgement passed by the Supreme Court instills hope in the justice.
"We welcome the judgement of the Supreme Court because, at least, it does hold some hope for justice. Importantly, the comments of the Supreme Court also point to the capability of the central government and the Gujarat government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party... It was the Gujarat government that, according to the Supreme Court, accepted the documents, which the court has considered as fraud," she said.
She further took a swipe at the Home Ministry and said that it was the department that encouraged the petition and reference made by.
"The court has said that the petitioner did not come with clean hands... and yet, this is the petitioner who had full support of the Gujarat government and central government. In fact, it was the home ministry which encouraged and okayed the petition and reference made by the Gujarat government for the release of the convicts who had arguably one of the worst crime in the last two decades. So it is a welcome order," Karat added.
The Supreme Court on Monday cancelled an order passed by the state to release 11 men convicted of raping Bilkis Bano and killing seven of her family members during the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat.
The court ruled that the Gujarat government was "not competent enough" to pass such an order and termed the move a "fraud act".
A bench of Justices BV Nagarthana and Ujjal Bhuyan pronounced the verdict and ordered the convicts to surrender in two weeks and return to jail. The bench said a petition filed by Bilkis Bano challenging the early release of 11 convicts was maintainable.
The apex court held that the judgement of May 13, 2022 (which directed the Gujarat government to consider remission of convict) was obtained by "playing fraud" on the court and by suppressing material facts.
The convicts had not approached the court with clean hands, the apex court observed.
Noting that the state, where an offender is tried and sentenced, is competent to decide the remission plea of convicts, the apex court held that Gujarat was not competent to pass the remission orders but the Maharashtra government.
The exercise of power by the State of Gujarat is an instance of usurpation of power and abuse of power, the SC said.
"It is the duty of this court to correct arbitrary orders at the earliest and to retain the foundation of trust of the public," the apex court said.
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.
The Gujarat government had released the 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, on August 15, 2022. 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.
Bilkis Bano and others had approached the top court, challenging the premature release of 11 convicts.
Some PILs were filed, seeking directions to revoke the remission granted to 11 convicts.
The pleas were filed by the National Federation of Indian Women, whose General Secretary is Annie Raja, Member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, social activist and professor Roop Rekha Verma and TMC MP Mahua Moitra.
The Gujarat government, in its affidavit, defended the remission granted to convicts, saying they completed 14 years of sentence in prison and their "behaviour was found to be good".
The State government had said it has considered the cases of all 11 convicts as per the policy of 1992 and remission was granted on August 10, 2022, and central government also approved the release of convicts.

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