Published on: 14 December 2022 at 16:19 IST
Toady on Bilkis Bano’s petition challenging the early release of 11 men serving a life sentence for gang-raping her and wiping out her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Supreme Court today reacted sternly to a request for setting up a new bench.
Bilkis Bano’s lawyer had raised the request before Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, and Justice PS Narasimha, asking them to consider setting up a fresh bench early after one of the judges hearing the case, Justice Bela Trivedi, opted out yesterday.
“The petition will be listed. Please, don’t keep mentioning the same thing again and again. It is very irritating,” the Chief Justice said.
After Justice Bela Trivedi exited the case, the Chief Justice has to set up a new bench to hear Bilkis Bano’s petition.
The 11 convicts were freed on August 15, Independence Day, by the Gujarat government under an outdated policy. The move sparked massive nationwide outrage, which was amplified by images of the rapists being garlanded and welcomed like heroes by a Hindu organisation.
Defending the decision, the Gujarat government cited the Centre’s approval – it came swiftly, within two weeks of its request – and “good behaviour”.
Gujarat also cited a Supreme Court ruling on the petition of one of the convicts. The Supreme Court had said that the Gujarat government could consider releasing him under the 1992 remission policy. In response, Gujarat freed all 11, dismissing strong objections from the CBI and a special judge.
Bilkis Bano has said in her petition that the decision on releasing the men should be taken by Maharashtra, where the trial took place, instead of Gujarat.
Bilkis Bano was 21 and pregnant when she was gang-raped by the men, who killed nine members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter, during the riots that swept through Gujarat after the Godhra train burning in which 59 pilgrims died.
The investigation in the case was handed over to the CBI and the trial was transferred to a Maharashtra court by the Supreme Court. A special CBI court in Mumbai had sentenced the 11 men to life imprisonment in 2008. Their sentence was confirmed by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.