Bilkis Bano| Supreme Court issues notice in all PILs despite convicts' strong resistance on locus standi of petitioners

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While hearing the parties today, Justice KM Joseph has also question the state of Gujarat's decision to grant remission while exercising such power without having the jurisdiction to do so.

The Supreme Court today issued notice in all the Public Interest petitions filed against the remission granted to 11 convicts who gangraped Bilkis Bano in Gujarat in 2002.

Notably, a bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna also issued notice on the petition filed by Bano herself, who was represented by Advocate Shobha Gupta.

Advocate Rishi Malhotra, appearing on behalf of one of the convicts who was granted remission by the State of Gujarat, argued before Court today that a PIL could not be filed in matters of criminal jurisprudence. "They are not maintainable...there is no locus standi..", he told the Court.

When Justice Joseph went on to issue notice in the pleas, Advocate Malhotra said, "There is something very weird happening in court now, anyone is filing a PIL in a criminal matter."

To this the bench replied saying, "We will look into it, don't worry..".

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing on behalf of Communist Party of India leader Subhashini Ali, who had approached the Supreme Court in August last year, submitted that, "we are not seeking criminal prosecution, we are here challenging the orders of remission..".

While posting the case for further consideration on April 18, the Supreme Court ordered thus, "Pleadings to be completed before the next date of the posting. Union and State of Gujarat to be ready with files relating to grant of remission before the next date of hearing. Issue notice on all other PILs as well."

Last Friday, the Supreme Court had constituted a bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagaratha to hear the petition filed by rape survivor Bilkis Bano, challenging the remission granted to 11 convicts. 

This was done two days after the CJI had said that he would appoint a special bench to hear the petition, after the same was mentioned before him by Advocate Shobha Gupta.

In December last year Justice Bela M. Trivedi of the Supreme Court had recused from hearing the petition by Bano, and the bench also comprising Justice Ajay Rastogi had therefore adjourned the case by Bano seeking a review against the judgment of the Supreme Court delivered in May 2022 which held that Gujarat Government has the jurisdiction to decide the remission plea of the convicts, although the trial was held in Maharashtra.

On August 16, 2022 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.

In her petition, Bano has stated that she was not even made party respondent by the accused persons in the writ petition concerning remission and that this was the reason that she had absolutely no information of the filing or pendency of the said writ petition or the order passed therein by the Top Court till the writ petitioner and other 10 co-convicts/prisoners were prematurely released on 15.08.2022.

She has submitted that the accused persons concealed important documents/ material from the Supreme Court which are very necessary for proper adjudication of the review petition and issue in hand, the present petitioner would therefore be filing an application seeking permission to bring on record additional facts and documents.


Other Cases on the same subject matter:

On August 25, 2022, Supreme Court had issued notice on petitions filed by Communist Party of India leader Subhashini Ali and Member of Lok Sabha Mahua Moitra has challenged the release of 11 convicted Rapists of Bilkis Bano who were released on the basis of a Remission Order. However, the notice was issued on the limited aspect as to whether the remission granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape case was within the parameters of the law.

A bench of the then Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Ajay Rastogi, and Justice Vikram Nath noted, "Whatever they have committed, they have been convicted. The question is whether the remission was in the parameters of law".

The Court while issuing notice in the matter, 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?"

The State of Gujarat on the other hand had informed the Supreme Court in the same petition 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.

Case Title: Bilkis Yakub Rasool vs. Union of India & Ors.