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Public Outcry In Bilkis Bano Case Won't Affect Judicial Decision: SC

A bench led by Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan emphasised their commitment to adhering strictly to the rule of law, asserting that societal agitation and public outcry would not influence their judgement. 

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Harnur Watta
New Update
Image credits: Deccan Herald

Image credits: Deccan Herald

In a significant legal proceeding that has captured national attention, the Supreme Court of India declared on Tuesday that public outrage would not sway its decisions. The apex court commenced deliberations on the legality of the remission granted to 11 convicts in the notorious Bilkis Bano gang rape and murder case, which unfolded during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
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A bench led by Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan emphasised their commitment to adhering strictly to the rule of law, asserting that societal agitation and public outcry would not influence their judgement. 

"Public outcry will not affect our judicial decisions. We will consider only legal submissions and will not go by this (public anger over the incident)," the bench clarified during the proceedings.

The statement was prompted by a submission from advocate Shobha Gupta, representing Bilkis Bano, who argued that public outcry should be a crucial factor in granting remission to convicts. Gupta highlighted that protests had erupted across the nation following the release of the convicts involved in the case.

Remission for the Convicts?

As the hearing commenced, counsel for Bilkis Bano apprised the court of the negative opinion provided by the Additional Director General of Police, Prisons and Correctional Administration, Gujarat, concerning remission for the convicts. 

Particularly, it was highlighted that Radheshyam Shah's plea for premature release had been denied by the Gujarat High Court, prompting him to seek relief from the Supreme Court through a writ petition.

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The bench questioned the maintainability of Shah's writ petition, considering he had already pursued legal remedies under Article 226 before the High Court. 

Article 226 empowers high courts to issue writs, orders, and instructions to various entities, including government bodies.

Radheysham Shah's plea for remission was based on his completion of over 15 years in prison, following a life imprisonment sentence imposed by a CBI court in Mumbai in 2008. The rules at the time stipulated that convicts could apply for remission after serving 14 years, the equivalent of the period designated for life imprisonment.

Subsequent to the Supreme Court's directive to the Gujarat government to review Shah's plea, the remission process was expedited, resulting in the release of all 11 convicts on August 15, 2022.

During the course of the hearing, various perspectives were presented. Senior advocate Indira Jaising, representing public interest litigants (PILs), recounted instances where the convicts were celebrated upon their release. Additional Solicitor General SV Raju emphasised that those participating in the celebrations were primarily family members of the convicts.

At the conclusion of Tuesday's session, the Supreme Court announced that arguments concerning the standing of multiple parties filing PILs in the Bilkis Bano case would be heard on August 9.

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 Alongside Bilkis Bano's petition, PILs filed by prominent figures such as CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist Revati Laul, and former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma challenge the remission. 

Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra files PIL opposing the remission

Notably, senior advocate Sidharth Luthra, representing one of the convicts, argued that the standing of other parties to intervene might be limited when the victim is already involved in court proceedings.

The case revolves around the harrowing gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of seven of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Supreme Court's examination of the matter commenced on Monday, highlighting the brutal circumstances in which the convicts pursued their victims.

Throughout the proceedings, the Supreme Court raised questions about the gravity of the offence and the application of mind in granting remission. 

The court had expressed concerns about the proportionality of leniency and had sought explanations for frequent parole during the convicts' imprisonment.

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Bilkis Bano, who was subjected to the heinous gang rape while pregnant and fleeing the 2002 communal riots, continues to seek justice for herself and her family. 

The 11 convicts granted premature release include individuals such as Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana. 

As the Supreme Court delves deeper into this case, it seeks to balance legal principles with the sentiments of the concerned public.


Suggested Reading: "Gravity Of Offence Should Have Been Considered," SC Questions Gujarat On Bilkis Bano Case


 

Bilkis Bano case Public Outcry Supreme court Bilkis Bano
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