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Bilkis Bano Case: 'How Could They Be Released?', Asks SC On Untimely Release Of 11 Convicts

The 11 men released on Independence Day last year were sentenced by the court in Maharashtra. According to Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, who was representing Gujarat government, the convicts were released according to the law considering the 1992 policy.

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Bilkis Bano
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As the Supreme court is hearing a slew of petitions in connection with the premature release of eleven men convicted for raping Bilkis Bano and slaughtering her family during the 2002 riots, the Gujarat government faced some tough questions today from the apex court.

The 11 men released on Independence Day last year were sentenced by the court in Maharashtra. The judge who found them guilty had also given a negative response to the state's question on whether the convicts should be released.

What did the SC say?

 "The convicts' death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment. How could they be released after serving 14 years in such a situation? Why are other prisoners not given the relief of release? Why were these culprits selectively given the benefit of the policy in this case?" asked the bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan.  

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"How far this rule -- giving a chance to hardened criminals to reform -- by releasing them after 14 years is being applied to other prisoners? Why is the policy being applied selectively? Opportunity to reform and reintegrate should be given to all. How far is this being implemented? Why are our prisons overflowing? Give us data," the court said.

Besides, the apex court questioned on what basis the Jail Advisory Committee was formed for Bilkis convicts and ordered the state to provide with further details and also asked why the opinion of the Godhra court was sought since the trial was not conducted there.

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What was the response on behalf of the Gujarat governmnet?

While answering the apex court's questions on behalf of the Gujarat government, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju said it is difficult to answer in general. He, however, told the court that a case is pending in the Supreme Court, in which all the states have to give detailed information about it.

According to him, considering the 1992 policy, the convicts were released according to the law. Since they were convicted in 2008, they had to be released in 2022.

The Supreme Court has questioned its own order of May 13, 2022, where the premature release of one of the convicts of Bilkis Bano was directed to the Gujarat government. The apex court on Tuesday wondered the legality of the convict's petition. 

 The Court of Justice BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan raised pointed questions as to how the Supreme Court dealt with the writ petition in the case of the convict, Radheyshyam Bhagwandas Shah after his request that the Gujarat Government be called upon to rule on his remission plea was rejected by the Gujrat High Court.

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