The Supreme Court on Thursday sought the Gujarat government’s response on a plea challenging the release of 11 men convicted for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana also asked the petitioners to implead those who have been granted remission as parties in the matter. The bench also posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
Three Public Interest Litigations – by Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo Member Subhashini Ali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and one other petitioner – have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the remission and consequent release of 11 convicts on Independence Day.
The incident turned into a huge political controversy with the special court judge who convicted the men also raising questions about the Gujarat government’s decision.
“Did they ask the judge under whom the case was heard? I can tell you that I heard nothing regarding this… In such cases, the state government needs to take advice from the central government as well. Did they do that? I have no idea. If they did, what did the central government say,” Justice UD Salvi, who retired as a judge of the Bombay High Court, said in an exclusive interview to NDTV.
“I don’t know if they went through the procedure or not,” he had added.
The convicts walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. They had completed more than 15 years in jail.
The convicts were welcomed by groups linked to the ruling BJP – with sweets, hugs and garlands. A BJP MLA was quoted as saying that the men were Brahmins with “good sanskar” (culture).
Days after the convicts’ release, Bilkis Bano said it has “shaken” her faith in the justice system and left her “shocked” and “numb”. The family has been too distraught to decide on any legal step.
Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gangraped while fleeing the violence that broke out after the Godhra train burning. Among those killed was her three-year-old daughter.
With inputs from agencies