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Bilkis Bano Case: SC to Hear Pleas of Convicts Seeking More Time to Surrender

Citing ill-health and domestic responsibilities, one of the convicts sought an extension of time to surrender.

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Law
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Ten days after the Supreme Court quashed the Gujarat government's decision to grant remission to 11 convicts sentenced to life term in the Bilkis Bano case, at least six of them approached the apex court on Wednesday, 17 January, seeking an extension of time to surrender before jail authorities, Bar & Bench reported.

The apex court will be hearing the plea on 19 January.

Quashing the remission order, the SC on 8 January, asked the convicts to report to jail within two weeks time – by 22 January.

Who filed the petition? Govindbhai Nai, Ramesh Rupabhai Chandana, Mitesh Chimanlal, Pradeep Ramanlal Modhiya, Bipinchand Kanaiyalal and Radheshyam Bhagwan Das approached the SC seeking time to surrender before the concerned jail authorities.

While Govindbhai, Pradeep sought a four-week extension, Ramesh, Mitesh, Radheshyam and Bipinchand asked the court to grant them a six-week extension.

What were the reasons given? In his application, Govindbhai cited ill health as well as domestic responsibilities for the extension, Bar & Bench reported.

The 55-year-old convict stated that 'he is the only caregiver for his ailing 88-year-old father, who is bedridden and "completely dependent" on him, and his 75-year-old mother.'

Nai also said that he himself is "an old man who is suffering from asthma and in really poor health," as reported by Live Law.

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In his application, Ramesh Rupabhai Chandana claimed that he had to fulfill the responsibility of getting his son married.

Meanwhile, Mitesh Chimanlal Bhat approached the court for an extension stating his winter produce is ready for harvest and he would prefer to complete the process and then surrender, Bar & Bench reported.

Radheshyam Bhagwan Das, who was the first to approach the SC which led to their remission in 2022, sought six weeks time citing the need to make financial arrangements for their respective families

What did the court say? As per Live Law, a bench presided by Justice B V Nagarathna, before whom the applications were mentioned, directed the SC Registry to get the orders of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud to reconstitute the bench which had heard the case.

What's the case? On 15 August 2022, the Gujarat government granted remission and released eleven men, sentenced to life for the gang rape of then 21-year-old Bano, and the murder of seven of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

While setting aside the government's decision, the top court had made a key observation – the "appropriate" government to take call on the remission of convicts was Maharashtra, and not Gujarat.

"... The state of Gujarat had usurped the powers of the state of Maharashtra which only could have considered the applications seeking remission," read the 251-page judgment, pronounced by the bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan.

Directing the 11 convicts to report to jail authorities within two weeks, the bench said the Gujarat government was "complicit" and "acted in tandem" with the convicts in misleading the court by suppressing the facts.

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What happens if the convicts don't surrender?

A slew of lawyer The Quint spoke to had said that there was "no possibility" of the convicts not surrendering to jail authorities.

"They will have to surrender. There is no other possibility. If there is an order directing them to surrender within two weeks, and they do not follow that, contempt proceedings can be initiated, and we can go to court. But I don't think anybody will commit the mistake,"
Shobha Gupta, Bilkis Bano's lawyer

However, Delhi-based lawyer Rashmi Singh, said that if the convicts do not surrender, "contempt proceedings can be initiated and non-bailable warrants can be issued."

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