Supreme Court Justice Bela M Trivedi will not be hearing Bilkis Bano’s plea challenging the premature release of the 11 people convicted of gang-rape, and for the murder of her kin, during the 2002 Gujarat Riots. On Tuesday, 13 December, Justice Trivedi recused from hearing the plea.
But what happened? According to LiveLaw, the plea was listed before a bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela Trivedi. Once the matter was taken up Justice Rastogi informed Bilkis Bano’s lawyer Shobha Gupta about Justice Trivedi’s recusal. Further, he said:
"List the matter before a bench which one of us is not a part of”.
Background? Justice Trivedi reportedly acted as the Law Secretary of the Gujarat Government between 2004-2006.
Meanwhile, Justice Rastogi, in May this year, headed the bench that ruled that the Gujarat Government had the jurisdiction to hear the remission request of these convicts. In doing so, the bench overturned the Gujarat High Court’s decision that the remission request should be considered in Maharashtra as that’s where the trial had taken place (following transfer from Gujarat)
In August this year all 11 convicts, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano case, were released from jail after the Gujarat government approved their remission pleas.
Additionally... A Gujarat government affidavit (filed recently in the Supreme Court) has revealed that 10 of the 11 convicts had already spent more than a thousand days out of prison — even before the remission was approved. The eleventh convict was out for 998 days before being released. To make matters worse, one of the convicted men in the case, is accused of outraging a woman's modesty while out on parole in June 2020.
So who is challenging their release? In the aftermath of their release in August, several petitions were filed before the apex court challenging the Gujarat Government’s order. These included PILs by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, former IPS office Meeran Chadha Borwankar, among others. Subsequently Bilkis Bano too filed a challenge to the release of the convicts.
(With inputs from LiveLaw.)
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