Bilkis case: SC agrees to set up special bench

New Delhi: The Supreme Court agreed to set up a special bench to hear petitions filed against the premature release of 11 men sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2002 gangrape of Biklis Bano and the murder of her family members.

Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said this after Bilkis’s counsel urged the court to set up a special bench as Justice Ajay Rastogi, who is heading the bench before which the matter is currently pending, has been sharing the bench with Justice Bela M Trivedi who had recused from hearing the matter.

No reason was given for Justice Trivedi’s recusal. She was Law Secretary to the Gujarat government from 2004 to 2006.

The top court is seized of three petitions in the matter – one by Bilkis, another by CPI (M) leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, former V-C of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma and a third one by TMC MP Mahua Moitra.

On December 13, 2022, Justice Trivedi had recused herself from hearing Bilkis’s petition. She also recused from the hearing when the other two petitions came up before the same bench on January 4 this year. The court then directed that the matters be listed before a bench of which Justice Trivedi is not a part.

Bilkis was gangraped and her three-year-old daughter was among 14 people killed by a mob on March 3, 2002, in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district during the riots. The 11 convicts were released on August 15 this year.

Bilkis in her plea said “the enmasse premature release of the convicts… has shaken the conscience of society”. She said the Supreme Court had earlier held in the past that enmasse remissions cannot be permitted and that the case of each convict will have to be separately examined before extending the relief.

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