Bilkis Bano case | SC to hear pleas against premature release of 11 convicts on November 29

Gujarat government has maintained that it followed the 1992 Premature Release Policy. The remission was granted on August 10, 2022

Updated - October 18, 2022 02:57 pm IST

Published - October 18, 2022 01:40 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Supreme Court of India.

Supreme Court of India. | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave petitioners time to respond to a Gujarat government affidavit which showed that the Special Judge and the CBI in Mumbai opposed the premature release of 11 convicts sentenced to life in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case while the Centre and Gujarat authorities went ahead to approve the proposal to set them free early.

A Bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and C.T. Ravikumar scheduled the next hearing on November 29.

Also Read | Past verdicts will hold Supreme Court in good stead to examine premature release of convicts in Bilkis Bano case

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal had sought time to file a reply. The court asked Gujarat and a lawyer appearing for the accused to hand over copies of their counter affidavits to all the lawyers involved in the case.

The affidavit filed on late Monday by the State of Gujarat revealed that while the Superintendent of Police, CBI, Special Crime Branch, Mumbai and the Special Judge (CBI) of Greater Bombay opposed the premature release all the authorities in Gujarat and the Home Ministry recommended their release.

“All the prisoners have completed 14 plus years in the prison under life imprisonment and opinions of the authorities concerned have been obtained as per the premature release policy of 1992 and submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs vide letter dated June 28, 2022 and sought the approval of the Government of India. The Government of India conveyed the concurrence/approval of the Central government under Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for premature release of 11 prisoners in a letter on July 11, 2022,” the 57-page affidavit has said.

Explained | How did the Bilkis Bano convicts walk free?

The State clarified that, contrary to popular perceptions, the early release of the 11 convicts was not as per a circular allowing remission to prisoners as part of the celebration of 'Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav'.

The State government has maintained that it followed the 1992 Premature Release Policy. The remission was granted on August 10, 2022.

The State said it was the Supreme Court itself which had allowed it to consider the case of the 11 prisoners under the Premature Release Policy of 1992. The court had in May 2022 held that remission would be considered as per the policy which was vogue at the time of conviction.

The court’s judgment had come in a plea filed by one of the 11 convicts, Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah. The court had even directed the Gujarat government to consider the application of Shah within two months, the affidavit said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for Gujarat, and advocate Rishi Malhotra, for the accused, have both challenged the locus standi of "third party petitioners" to challenge the premature release". They dubbed the petitioners as "interlopers".

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