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Bilkis Bano case: SC posts hearing on July 11, directs to serve notice to convict

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday posted for July 11 a batch of petitions challenging the pre-mature release of 11 convicts who had gang-raped Bilkis Bano and murdered her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots.
A bench of Justices KM Joseph, BV Nagarathna and Ahsanuddin Amanullah adjourned the matter for hearing after the summer break of the top court. The Supreme Court will go on summer vacation from May 20 till July 2. The bench directed the issuance of notice to the convict, which remained unserved till now.
The apex court directed the publication of notice in local newspapers, including in Gujarati and English, against the convict who could not be served notice.
During the hearing, the bench was informed that the house of one convict was found by the local police to be locked and his phone was switched off also.
The next date of hearing of the matter, i.e. July 11 shall also be published in the notice to be carried in the newspapers, the top court directed.
The bench passed this order saying it's adopting this process so that time is not wasted on the next date of hearing and it cannot be argued that service is left incomplete.
"Notice to be published in one English newspaper and one vernacular in circulation in the area," the apex court directed.
On May 2 also the Supreme Court deferred the hearing of the case after some of the counsels for the convicts raised objections about not being served notices on the pleas.
Bilkis Bano and others had approached the top court challenging the premature release of 11 convicts.
Besides filing a petition against the per-mature release of convicts, Bano had also filed a review petition seeking a review of its earlier order by which it had asked the Gujarat government to consider the plea for the remission of one of the convicts.
The review petition was dismissed.
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.
Gujarat government in its affidavit had defended 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 the Central government also approved the release of convicts.
It is pertinent to note that the remission was not granted under the circular governing grant of remission to prisoners as part of the celebration of "Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav", it had said.
The affidavit stated, "State government considered all the opinions and decided to release 11 prisoners since they have completed 14 years and above in prisons and their behaviour was found to be good."
The government had also questioned the locus standi of petitioners who filed the PIL challenging the decision saying they are outsiders to the case.
The pleas said they have 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 August 15, 2022, pursuant to remission being extended to them.
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), pleas stated.
The Gujarat government released the 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, on August 15. 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. (ANI)

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