The Supreme Court Wednesday said it will hear Bilkis Bano’s plea along with a batch of other petitions challenging the remission of sentence of 11 Hindutva men who gangraped her and murdered seven members of her family members during the 2002 Muslim genocide in Gujarat.
Justice Ajay Rastogi said now that the victim has approached this court challenging the remission to convicts, her plea will be taken as a lead matter.
“Now that the victim is here…We will take the victim’s matter as a lead matter. List before Bench wherein Jutice Bela M Trivedi is not a member,” Justice Rastogi told the advocate for the petitioners.
A bench comprising Justice Rastogi and Justice Bela M Trivedi was hearing a batch of petitions, including that of CPI (M) leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, former vice-chancellor of the Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma and Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra, against the release of the convicts.
Trivedi recused herself from hearing the fresh pleas. Justice Trivedi recused herself from hearing Bano’s plea in December 2022. No reason was given for Justice Trivedi’s recusal.
Last month, Supreme Court of India had dismissed the review petition filed by Gujarat Muslim genocide survivor Bilkis Bano seeking review of the May 2022 judgment which held that Gujarat Government had the jurisdiction to decide the remission applications of 11 gangrape- murder convicts even though the trial was held in Maharashtra.
Bano’s plea against the top court’s May 2022 judgment, contended that the remission policy of State of Maharashtra should apply in present case, instead of 1992 remission policy of Gujarat since the trial in the case had happened in Maharashtra.
Bilkis Bano had approached the Supreme Court challenging the release of 11 Hindutva men convicted of gang-raping her and killing seven members of her family in the 2002 Gujarat Muslim genocide.
The convicts were freed on August 15, Independence Day, by the Gujarat government under a past remission policy.
The move sparked massive outrage, especially when visuals showed the rapists being garlanded and welcomed like heroes by a Hindutva organisation.
Bilkis Bano had said in her petition that Maharashtra, not Gujarat, should decide on releasing the men.
The 11 convicts who had been set free are: Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana.
Bilkis Bano, who is now in her forties, was five months pregnant when she was brutally gangraped by Hindutva men in Muslim genocide in 2002 in Gujarat, which saw nearly 2,000 Muslims killed in some of the worst anti-Muslim pogroms India has experienced. Seven members of Bano’s family were also killed in the violence, including her three-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on the ground by the perpetrators.
Bano and two of her children were the only survivors among a group of 17 Muslims.
Bano had said the decision by the Gujarat state government to free her rapists has left her “numb”, “bereft of words” and shaken her faith in justice.