The governments told the court they may seek review of its March 27 order by which the state was directed to place the files regarding grant of remission before it for perusal.
Asking for reasons for the premature release of the convicts, a bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna said, “It (remission) is a kind of grace that should be proportional to crime. Look at the records, one of them was granted parole for 1,000 days, the other 1,200 days and third for 1,500 days. What policy have you (Gujarat government) been following? It is not a simple case of Section 302 (murder) but a case of murders compounded by gangrape. Like you cannot compare apples with oranges, similarly massacre cannot be compared with single murder.”
Setback for Bilkis Bano rapists, SC says Gujarat govt must provide reasons for early release
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for both the governments, told the bench that he had brought the files in compliance of the order but said he had got instructions to say the government is considering seeking review of last month’s order. “We are claiming privilege over the information. I am asking for time to file review,” Raju told the bench, seeking time till Monday.
The bench said the government is free to seek review, but the court had to see the reasons given to remit the sentences and procedure adopted by the authorities. “What is the problem in showing the files? You might have perhaps acted as per the law, so why are you hesitant,” asked the bench.
“The real question is whether the government applied its mind and what material formed the basis of its decision to grant remission,” it said, adding, “Today it is this lady (Bilkis) but tomorrow it can be anyone. It may be you or me. If you do not show your reasons for grant of remission, we will draw our own conclusions.”
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Underscoring the need for the bench to peruse the files, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners challenging remission, contended that the files would speak for themselves and the Centre and Gujarat government would not even need to argue the case.
Bano was 21 years old and was five months pregnant when she was gang-raped and her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members murdered.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for one of the convicts, told the bench that there was no doubt that it was a heinous offence and that is why they spent more than 14 years in jail but it did not mean that they were not entitled for remission.
Challenging the state’s decision, senior advocate A M Singhvi said it was done without giving any reason and despite written objection by a special CBI judge and SP of CBI who conducted the probe.
The bench after hearing adjourned the case to May 2 for final disposal. It asked the Centre and state to file a review plea against by April 24..
A batch of petitions was filed in the apex court by social activists and politicians soon after all the eleven convicts were granted remission and released on August 15 last year. Bano moved the apex court in November.
CPM leader Subhashini Ali, Revati Laul, an independent journalist, Roop Rekha Verma, former Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University, and TMC MP Mahua Moitra are some of the petitioners who moved the SC against the remission.