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Bilkis Bano case: SC declines to extend time for surrender of 11 convicts

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the applications filed by convicts in the Bilkis Bano case seeking an extension of time to surrender before jail authorities.
A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan while dismissing applications said that the reasons cited by them to seek postponement of surrender and report back to jail have no merit.
"The reasons cited by applicants to seek postponement of surrender and report back to jail have no merit in as much as those reasons in no way prevent them from complying with our directions. Hence, the miscellaneous applications are dismissed. Pending applications, if any, also stand disposed," said the bench.
The time for convicts to surrender will expire on January 21.
The 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case have approached the apex court seeking an extension of time to surrender before the jail authorities, citing health issues, caretaking of aged parents, impending harvest of crops and other issues.
The convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government in the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots.
They were sentenced to life imprisonment but released in August 2022 after serving 14 years of sentence.
On January 8, the Supreme Court struck down the Gujarat government's order granting remission to 11 convicts.
It had quashed the Gujarat government's remission order, by which convicts were released pre-maturely, and asked them to surrender before jail authorities within two weeks.
The bench had held that the Gujarat government was not competent to pass the remission orders but the Maharashtra government.
It held that the judgement of May 13, 2022, by which another bench of the apex court had directed the Gujarat government to consider remission of the convict as per the 1992 policy, was obtained by "playing fraud" on the court and by suppressing material facts.
The convicts had not approached the court with clean hands, said the bench, adding that proceedings before this court were due to "suppression of facts" and that is why it is fraud played on this court.
The judgement of the top court had come on a petition filed by Bilkis Bano and others challenging the premature release of 11 convicts.
Earlier, the Gujarat government, in its affidavit, defended the remission granted to convicts, saying they had completed a 14-year sentence in prison and their "behaviour was found to be good."
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.

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