Issuing notice to the Gujarat government, the Supreme Court on Thursday sought its response over pleas challenging remission granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case.
The Supreme Court was hearing three petitions challenging the release of 11 life convicts in the 2002 Gujarat riots Bilkis Bano gangrape case. The convicts were released by the Gujarat government on August 15, Independence Day, under an outdated remission policy.
The top court on Thursday said, ?the question is, under Gujarat rules, are the convicts entitled to remission or not? We?ve to see whether there was application of mind in this case while granting remission?. SC added the court didn?t order for their release but only asked the state to consider remission as per the policy.
The remission and consequent release of 11 convicts on August 15 from Godhra sub-jail under the Gujarat government?s remission policy sparked a debate on the issue of such relief in heinous cases.
The Gujarat government on Thursday opposed the pleas challenging the remission, saying that the petitioner is not a party to the present case and hence the plea is not maintainable. The top court also asked petitioners to implead Gujarat government as party to the case.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday had agreed to consider the petitions filed by CPM leader Subhashini Ali, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra, and one other person. A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana agreed to hear the matter after submissions by senior advocates Kapil Sibal (appearing for Subhashini Ali) and Abhishek Singhvi (appearing for Mahua Moitra), and lawyer Aparna Bhat.
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?We are only challenging the remission and not the Supreme Court order. The Supreme Court order is fine, My Lords. We are challenging the principles on the basis of which remission was granted,? Sibal said on Tuesday while seeking an urgent hearing of the plea. Bhat also said that the apex court?s earlier order asking the state government to consider the remission aspect was not challenged.
A special CBI court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, sentenced the 11 to life imprisonment on charges of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano?s family. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the violence that broke out after the Godhra train burning. Among those killed was her three-year-old daughter.
The state had witnessed riots after the Sabarmati Express was attacked in Godhra and 59 passengers, mainly ?kar sevaks?, were burnt to death.
BJP Leader Khushbu Sundar?s Tweet Against Release of Convicts Draws Mixed Reactions
BJP leader Khushbu Sundar?s tweet against the release of men involved in rape has set off a series of reactions and debate, with her party on Thursday maintaining that the release of 11 convicts by Gujarat in the Bilkis Bano case was as per law and there was absolutely no politics involved.
A leading women?s outfit said it was time for persons like Khushbu to introspect, adding secular, democratic forces are the right destination to fight for women?s honour and rights.
A woman who is raped, assaulted, brutalised and her soul scarred for life must get justice. No man who has been involved in it should go free. If he does so, it's an insult to humankind and womanhood. #BilkisBano or any woman, needs support, beyond politics n ideologies. Period.? KhushbuSundar (@khushsundar) August 24, 2022
National president of BJP?s women?s wing Vanathi Srinivasan said that through her tweet, Sundar has conveyed that injustice must not befall on women and there is absolutely no second opinion about that. In this specific matter of release of 11 convicts by Gujarat, the due process of law was followed and the state government took a decision following the recommendations of a committee that made a complete scrutiny of each and every case, she said.
This process was following a Supreme Court directive on a petition filed by a convict. ?The (Gujarat) government followed due process of law. They were not released for political reasons,? news agency PTI quoted Srinivasan as saying.
Many Residents of Bilkis Bano?s Village Move Out Fearing Safety After Release of Convicts; Cops Deployed
A resident of Randhikpur village in Gujarat?s Dahod district where Bilkis Bano was gang raped and seven members of her family killed during the 2002 riots, on Tuesday claimed many Muslims have left the village over the safety concern following the release of the 11 life-term convicts.
While police have increased security in Randhikpur as the men released from the jail hail from a neighbouring village, they have ruled out any exodus by villagers.
Shahrukh Sheikh, a resident of Randhikpur, said 70 Muslim families are living in fear while many others have moved out and started staying with their relatives and well-wishers in other areas.
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?We are scared. Several people have left the village out of fear of violence from the side of the convicts after their release. We have appealed to the collector to put the convicts behind bars and provide safety to the villagers,? news agency PTI quoted Sheikh, who works as a daily wager, as saying.
A memorandum was reportedly handed over to the Dahod district collector on Monday in which villagers spoke about fear saying many residents of Randhikpur are moving out while discontinuing their daily job.
Villagers said they were leaving because they fear for their safety, especially of women. They will not return until the 11 convicts are arrested, the memorandum said. Police said the convicts, who hail from a village near Randhikpur, are not present in the area but admitted that some villagers have left.
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?We have deployed police personnel at fixed points after talking to local people and intensified patrolling after the villagers expressed concern over their safety,? Deputy Superintendent of Police RB Devdha was quoted as saying.
He said some villagers have left their homes and gone to live with their relatives in other towns. Police are in touch with the people in Randhikpur and addressing their concerns, the DYSP said. Dahod superintendent of police Balram Meena said the 11 convicts are natives of Singvad village near Randhikpur but they are not present in the area.
(With PTI inputs)
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