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IANS

The Supreme Court on Friday granted the Gujarat government two weeks' time to file response on pleas challenging the release of 11 men convicted for the gang-rape of Bilkis Bano and multiple murders during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and B.V. Nagarathna directed the Gujarat government to file all records, which formed the basis for granting remission to all the accused in the case. It asked the state government to file its response within 2 weeks and also asked advocate Rishi Malhotra, representing some of the accused, to file a response. 

During the hearing, the top court asked if notice was required to be issued in the second matter if it's a similar petition, having the same cause of action.

Malhotra submitted "multiple petitions were being filed by people with no 'locus' and I am against this impleadment business... They are just multiplying petitions and impleadment applications in every matter."

The bench said matters can't be disposed of without issuing notice, and issued notice to Malhotra in the matter and also asked him to take instructions if he could appear for the other accused in the case.

It asked the petitioners to serve a copy on Malhotra and also on counsel for the Gujarat government. The top court also directed the state government to place all relevant documents, including the remission order, on record, and fixed the matter for further hearing after three weeks.

On August 25, the Supreme Court sought a response from the Gujarat government on a plea challenging the release of 11 convicts, then clarifying that it did not grant permission for remission to the convicts, and instead it asked the government to consider.

It was hearing a petition filed by CPI-M's former MP Subhasini Ali, journalist Revati Laul and Prof Roop Rekha Verma. Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has also moved the top court in the matter.

Eleven convicts, sentenced to life imprisonment, were released from Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. The convicts had completed more than 15 years in jail.

In January 2008, a special CBI court in Mumbai had sentenced the convicts to life imprisonment for gang-rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano's family. The Bombay High Court upheld their conviction.

Bilkis Bano was 21-years-old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the violence that broke out after the Godhra train burning.

The PIL, filed by Ali and others, assailed the order of the competent authority of the Gujarat government by way of which 11 persons who were accused in a set of heinous offences were allowed to walk free on August 15, 2022 pursuant to remission being extended to them.

The petitioners contended that grant of remission solely by the competent authority of a state government, without any consultation with the Centre is impermissible in terms of the mandate of Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Citing the facts of the case, the plea contended that no right-thinking authority applying any test under any extant policy would consider it fit to grant remission to persons who are found to have been involved in the commission of gruesome acts.

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