Bilkis Bano convicts released on their "good behaviour": Gujarattext_fields
New Delhi: The Gujarat government submitted before the Supreme court that the 11 convicts of the Bilkis Bano case were released because of their good behaviour in prison. The state government released the rapists after 14 years of imprisonment.
The state Home Department Under Secretary submitted an affidavit which said, "I say that the state government considered all the opinions and decided to release 11 prisoners since they have completed 14 years and above in prisons and their behaviour was found to be good."
It said that the Gujarat government had sought the opinions of the seven authorities, namely, the Inspector General of Prisons, Gujarat, the Jail Superintendents, the Jail Advisory Committee, the District Magistrate, the Police Superintendent, the CBI, the Special Crime Branch, Mumbai, and the sessions court, Mumbai (CBI).
"After approval of the state government, orders were issued on August 10, 2022, to release the prisoners. Hence, in instance, case the state has considered the proposals under the policy of 1992 as directed by this court and not granted under the circular governing grant of remission to prisoners as part of the celebration of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav',
It said that all the convict prisoners had completed 14+ years in prison under life imprisonment, and opinions of the concerned authorities have been obtained as per the policy of July 9, 1992, and submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs by letter dated June 28, 2022, and sought the approval/suitable orders of the Centre.
"The Government of India conveyed the concurrence/ approval of the Central Government under section 435 of the CrPC for premature release of 11 prisoners vide letter dated July 11, 2022," said the affidavit.
The affidavit said the state government is empowered to take the decisions on the proposal of the premature release of prisoners under the provision of Sections 432 and 433 of CrPC. "However, considering the provision of Section 435 CrPC, it is indispensable to obtain the sanction of the Government of India in cases in which the investigation of the offence was carried out by a central investigation agency. In the present case, the investigation was carried out by the CBI, and the state government has obtained the approval/suitable orders of the Government of India," it added.
The Gujarat government's response came on a plea has been filed by CPI-M's former MP Subhasini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, and Prof Roop Rekha Verma, challenging the release of 11 men convicted for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and multiple murders during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Another plea challenging the release of the convicts was filed by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra.
The Gujarat government denied each and every assertion made by the petitioners and said the petition was not maintainable in law nor tenable on facts. "The petitioner, being a third stranger, has no locus to challenge the remission orders by the competent authority strictly as per applicable law in the instant case under the garb of a PIL," said the affidavit.
The affidavit submitted that it is well established that a PIL is not maintainable in a criminal matter and the petitioner is in no way connected to the proceedings that either convicted the accused in question or with the proceedings which culminated in the grant of remission to the convicts. Thus, a petition, at the instance of a mere busybody, (and) which has political machinations, is liable to be dismissed, it added.
On September 9, the apex court directed the Gujarat government to file all records, which formed the basis for granting remission to all the accused in the case. It directed the state government to file its response within two weeks and also asked advocate Rishi Malhotra, representing some of the accused, to file a response.
A convict in the Bilkis Bano case has told the Supreme Court that the petition challenging the Gujarat government's remission order is "speculative and politically motivated".
The plea filed by Radheysham Bhagwandas Shah said: "This court not only on the ground of locus and maintainability but also on the ground of such speculative and politically motivated petition should dismiss the said petition with a heavy hand and imposed an exemplary cost so that such politically motivated petition by strangers should not be encouraged in future by others."