The Supreme Court will on Thursday take up three petitions challenging the remission order of the Gujarat government that allowed the release of 11 convicts serving life for raping Bilkis Bano during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The convicts were granted remission on Independence Day under an outdated 1992 remission policy, even when a stricter 2014 policy regarding the same was in place.
Chief Justice of India NV Ramana-led bench will be hearing the PILs filed by CPI(M) politburo member Subhashini Ali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra and a women’s right activist challenging the Gujarat government’s grant of remission. On Tuesday, CJI Ramana agreed to list the matter for urgent listing after the submissions made by senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Ali’s legal counsel, Abhishek Singhvi, Moitra’s legal counsel, and lawyer Aparna Bhat.
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Earlier this year, the apex court allowed the Gujarat government to decide upon which remission policy to follow in this matter after one of the convicts moved SC with a remission petition, citing that he had served more than 15 years in prison. However, the top court had opined that the remission policy which was existent at the time of conviction, which was in 2008, should be followed after taking precedence from the “State of Haryana versus Jagdish” case. According to the latest remission policy of the Gujarat, which was necessitated following the SC guidelines after the 2012 Nirbhaya case, a gangrape convict cannot be granted remission.
In 2008, the convicts were sentenced to life in prison by a special Mumbai court for gangraping Bano, who was five months’ pregnant at that time, and killing seven of her family, including her three-year-old daughter. The order was upheld by the Bombay High Court as well.
Bano was also awarded Rs 50 lakh, a job and a house by the top court in 2019, the highest compensation received in a rape case till date.
Days after the release, Bano said that her faith in the judicial system has been “shaken.” She further stated that no one had consulted her before the grant of remission or even inquired if she felt safe or her state of mind.
“How can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system, and I was learning slowly to live with my trauma… My sorrow and my wavering faith is not for myself alone but for every woman who is struggling for justice in courts,” said Bano in her statement after the release of the 11 convicts.