Bilkis Bano Wednesday approached the Supreme Court challenging the premature release of 11 convicts who gangraped her and murdered seven members of her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat. Bano also filed a review petition challenging the top court’s May order that permitted the Gujarat government to decide on the remission of the convicts, according to a report by Live Law.
The matter was mentioned before Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud for listing. The CJI said he will decide whether both pleas can be heard together and before the same bench.
The Gujarat government released the convicts under its remission and premature release policy on August 15 after one of the convicts, Radheshyam Shah, moved the Supreme Court. Shah, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment by a CBI court in Mumbai in 2008, had completed 15 years and 4 months in jail.
In May this year, the Supreme Court had directed the Gujarat government to decide within two months whether to remit Shah’s sentence. The apex court said that Gujarat was the “appropriate government” to decide on questions like remission or premature release because it was there that “the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded for exceptional reasons under the orders of this Court”.
Under Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution, the President and Governors have the power to pardon, and to suspend, remit, or commute a sentence passed by the courts. Also, since prisons is a state subject, state governments have powers under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to remit sentences. But there are restrictions on these powers, listed under Section 433A of the CrPC.
Following the release of the convicts, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Raj Kumar, said: “The 11 convicts have served a 14-year sentence in total. According to law, a life term means a minimum period of 14 years after which the convict can apply for remission. It is then the decision of the government to consider the application. Based on eligibility, prisoners are granted remission after the recommendation of the prison advisory committee as well as district legal authorities.”
Bilkis was gangraped and her three-year-old daughter Saleha was among 14 killed by a mob on March 3, 2002, in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district. Bilkis was pregnant at the time. The top court had transferred the trial to Maharashtra after she faced death threats in Gujarat.
The 11 convicts who had been set free are: Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana.