SC to resume hearing on Aug 31 on batch of pleas challenging remission to convicts

New Delhi: The Supreme Court is scheduled to resume hearing on Thursday a clutch of petitions challenging the remission granted to all 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case and murder of seven of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan, which is hearing the final arguments on the pleas challenging the remission granted to the convicts, will hear for the seventh day the submissions of the accused who are defending their release.

While hearing the arguments on August 24, the top court had said, “Law is supposed to be a noble profession,” as it voiced surprise over how can one of the convicts in the case practise law after his conviction, the remission of his sentence notwithstanding.

The issue came to the court’s notice when advocate Rishi Malhotra, defending the remission granted to Radheshyam Shah, told the bench that his client had served over 15 years of actual sentence and the state government gave him the relief after taking note of his conduct.

The Gujarat government had released all 11 convicts in the case on the basis of the 1992 remission policy and not the policy adopted in 2014, which is now in force.

Under the 2014 policy, the state cannot grant remission for a crime investigated by the CBI or where people have been convicted of murder with rape or gang-rape.

Besides the petition filed by Bilkis Bano, contesting the remission granted to them, several other PILs including one by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist Revati Laul and former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma have challenged the remission. TMC Lok Sabha MP Mohua Moitra has also filed a PIL against the remission.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the horror of the communal riots that broke out after the Godhra train-burning incident that left dead 59 people. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven of her family members killed in the riots.

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