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CJI Chandrachud Fumes Over Bilkis Bano’s Plea

The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed displeasure over the mentioning of a plea seeking to constitute another bench in Bilkis Bano’s petition challenging the early release of 11 men serving a life sentence for gang-raping her.

Lawyer Shobha Gupta, appearing for Bano, urged the bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha that another bench should be constituted to hear the case.

“The writ (petition) will be listed. Please, do not keep mentioning the same thing again and again. It is very irritating,” the CJI said.

Gupta said that though the petition was listed Tuesday, it was not taken up for hearing.

“It will be listed. The review (plea) was also circulated yesterday,” the CJI said.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court judge Bela M Trivedi on Tuesday recused herself from hearing a plea filed by Bano. “List the matter before a bench in which one of us is not a member,” the bench headed by Justice Rastogi ordered without specifying any reason for the recusal of Justice Trivedi.

Bano’s lawyer had said her only predicament was that winter vacation of the court is approaching and she wanted the matter to be heard at an earlier date.

The CJI will now have to set up a fresh bench, to which Justice Trivedi will not be a part, to hear Bano’s case.

Bano has also filed a separate plea seeking a review of the apex court’s May 13 order on a petition by a convict in which it had asked the Gujarat government to consider premature release of the convicts in terms of its policy of July 9, 1992 about deciding a remission petition within a period of two months.

The review plea was also listed for consideration before a bench of justices Rastogi and Vikram Nath on Tuesday. The order on the review plea is yet to be uploaded.

In her writ petition against the grant of remission, which had led to the release of 11 convicts on August 15, Bano said the state government passed a mechanical order completely ignoring the requirement of law as laid down by the Supreme Court.

“The enmasse premature release of the convicts in the much talked about case of Bilkis Bano, has shaken the conscience of the society and resulted in a number of agitations across the country,” she said in the plea.

The top court is already hearing PILs filed by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, independent journalist Revati Laul, former vice chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma, and TMC MP Mahua Moitra against the release of the convicts.

Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gangraped while fleeing the riots that broke out after the Godhra train burning incident. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members killed. The investigation in the case was handed over to the CBI and the trial was transferred to a Maharashtra court by the Supreme Court.

A special CBI court in Mumbai had on January 21, 2008 sentenced the 11 to life imprisonment. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.

The 11 men convicted in the case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. They had completed more than 15 years in jail.

(With PTI inputs)

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