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NEW DELHI, August 25, 2022 (TBINN)

Was there application of mind while considering remission, the Supreme Court asked today and issued notice to the Centre and Gujarat Government on a plea challenging the release of 11 convicts in the 2002 case of Bilkis Bano’s gang-rape and murder of her family members.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana asked the petitioners to implead all 11 who have been granted remission as parties in the matter. The bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath, posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.

Notably, Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the riots that broke out after the Godhra train burning in 2002. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven killed.

Eleven men convicted in the case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15, 2022 after Gujarat Government allowed their release under its remission policy. They completed more than 15 years in jail.

Plea in the apex court has been filed by C.P.I. (M) leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revathy Laul and activist Roop Rekha Rani.

Deliberating on the issue that has led to huge debate on the issue of relief in such heinous cases, the court said the question is whether there was application of mind while considering the issue of remission and whether it was within the parameters of law.

Day in day out, those who are convicted and complete their sentence, they are eligible for remission . What is the exception? the bench observed. Is that sufficient to say they are not entitled for remission, it asked.

During the hearing, senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioners, referred to facts of the case and said several people, including minors, were killed and a pregnant woman was raped.

The only question is, in these circumstances, what is the judicial review of the court in context of remission, he said.

The bench observed that whatever act was committed by the accused persons, they have been punished and held guilty by the court. Sibal said the petitioners want the apex court to look at the record and find whether there was application of mind.

Chief Justice of India referred to an apex court judgement in May this year. It said the state of Gujarat was the appropriate government competent to examine the application filed for premature release of a life convict in a murder case, which was transferred from a court there to a Mumbai Court for trial in August 2004.

I have seen somewhere that as if the court has granted permission for release. No, Justice Ramana, who retires on Friday, observed. The bench said it would issue notice on the plea.

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