A special three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana is hearing on Thursday a petition challenging the remission granted by the State of Gujarat to 11 life convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case.
The Chief Justice had on Tuesday agreed to list the petition urgently when it was mentioned in court for early hearing by advocate Aparna Bhat.
“We are challenging the remission. Fourteen people were killed and a pregnant woman was assaulted,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who accompanied Ms. Bhat for the mentioning, had highlighted the gravity of the crime.
The Bench would also have Justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath.
The Gujarat government had relied on its remission policy of 1992 to approve the convicts’ applications for remission of the sentence and not the current policy of 2014.
In May 2022, the apex court had directed the Gujarat government to consider the application of one of the convicts, Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah @ Lala Vakil, for premature release in terms of its remission policy of July 9, 1992. The 1992 policy was prevalent on the date of conviction.
The Supreme Court had followed its judgment in State of Haryana versus Jagdish which held that the policy applicable at the time of conviction must be considered for deciding an application of pre-mature release.
In its May 13 judgment, a Bench led by Justice Rastogi had concluded that Gujarat was the “appropriate government” under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to decide the remission of the convicts in the case.
The petition challenging the release of the convicts on August 15 was filed by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist and filmmaker Revati Laul and former philosophy professor and activist Roop Rekh Varma.
The State government’s decision to remit the sentence of the 11 convicts has raised a furious public outcry.