Somatirtha Purohit

The Supreme Court on Monday deferred, till Wednesday, hearing on batch of pleas filed against the Gujarat government's decision allowing early release of convicts in the case of the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her family members committed during the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

"List on October 11, 2023 at 2 p.m.," ordered a bench of Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan after noting that it has received written submissions filed by petitioners, including Bilkis Bano.

Last week, the top court had directed petitioners challenging remission orders to file short written rejoinder arguments in the matter.

Earlier, the convicts had argued before the apex court that remission orders granting them early release have an essence of judicial order and cannot be challenged by way of filing a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra - who is one of the PIL petitioners, had argued that Bilkis Bano was five months' pregnant when she was gang raped and crime committed against her and her family was a “crime against humanity" perpetrated on the basis of religion.

The Centre, Gujarat government, and convicts have opposed the public interest litigations (PILs) filed by CPI-M leader Subhashini Ali, Trinamool's Moitra, National Federation of Indian Women, Asma Shafique Shaikh and others, saying that once victim herself has approached the court, others may not be allowed to intervene in a criminal matter.

Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, appearing on behalf of the Centre, had argued that remission is reduction of sentence and a PIL cannot be entertained on the question of sentence.

The 11 men convicted in the case were released on August 15 last year, after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. The convicts had completed 15 years in jail.

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