[Bilkis Bano Rape Case] Convicts were released on completion of 14 years in jail, considering good behaviour: State of Gujarat tells SC

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On August 16, all 11 life imprisonment convicts in the 2002 post-Godhra Bilkis Bano gang-rape case of Gujarat were released from the Godhra sub-jail after a state government panel approved their application for remission of sentence.

The State of Gujarat has informed the Supreme Court that the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape case, who were recently released on remission, were released since they had completed 14 years and above in prison and their behaviour was found to be good.

The Top Court has been further informed that State Government considered the cases of all 11 convicts as per the policy of 1992 and remission was granted on August 10, 2022.

"It is pertinent to note that the remission was not granted under the circular governing grant of remission to prisoners as part of the celebration of 'Azadi KaAmrit Mahotsav'," the affidavit further adds.

Moreover, the relevant details with regard to the applications of remission filed by the convicts have also been placed on record for the court's perusal.

The affidavit has been filed in reply to a petition filed by the Communist Party of India leader Subhashini Ali and Member of Lok Sabha Mahua Moitra who have challenged the release of 11 convicted papists of Bilkis Bano who were released on the basis of a remission order.

The state of Gujarat has also opposed the petition on grounds of locus, saying that Subhashini Ali, who is a public functionary, has no ground to file the instant plea before the Supreme Court.

Filed through MM Vaghela, Under Secretary, Home Department, Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar, the affidavit submits,

"I respectfully state and submit that the petitioner, being a third party stranger, has no locus to challenge the remission orders passed by the competent authority strictly as per applicable law in the instant case under the garb of PIL."

Last month, a bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice B.V Nagarathna had issued notice to all 11 persons released by the Gujarat Government (earlier) on remission who were convicted for rape and murder charges, during the Gujarat riots.

Previously, a bench of the then CJI NV Ramana, Justice Ajay Rastogi, and Justice Vikram Nath, earlier in August, had noted, "Whatever they have committed, they have been convicted. The question is whether the remission was in the parameters of law".

The Top Court while issuing notice in the matter, had said, "Merely because the act was horrific, is that sufficient to say remission is wrong? Day in and day out remission is granted to convicts of life sentence, what is the exception?"

Additionally, the Court had directed the convicts to be made a party in the matter.

Earlier on August 16, all 11 life imprisonment convicts were released from the Godhra sub-jail, after a state government panel approved their application for remission of sentence.

Raj Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) had stated, "The 11 convicts have served a total of 14 years. A life sentence means a minimum of 14 years in prison, after which the convict can apply for remission. It is then up to the government to decide whether or not to consider the application. Prisoners are granted remission based on eligibility after the recommendation of the prison advisory committee and district legal authorities."

Kumar had further stated that among the parameters considered are age, nature of the crime, behavior in prison, and so on, and after considering all of the factors, the convicts in the present case had also been deemed eligible because they had served 14 years of their life sentence.

Case Title: Subhashini Ali vs. The State of Gujarat & Anr.