Bilkis Bano case: Post release of 11 convicts is a danger for her life : Mahua Moitra

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 Trinamool Congress Party Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra on Thursday while opposing the remission granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case, said that post release of these convicts is a danger for her life and it is a crime against humanity.

“Post release of these 11 convicts is a danger for her (Bilkis Bano) life. It is a crime against humanity. There are violations of natural justice. Post release, there’s a vulnerability. We are seeking relief to qaush the order of the Gujarat government of remitting the sentences and release these 11 convicts prematurely,” Senior lawyer Indira Jaising, appearing for the petitioner- Ms Moitra, told the Apex Court two-judge bench, headed by Justice B V Nagarathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan.

She submitted to the Top Court that there’s a silence on categories of crime to be granted remission. There is no policy at all. There are no norms laid down by the state of Gujarat for the remission.

“Crime, criminal, motive, gravity, nature of crimes were not considered while granting remission to these 11 convicts. My client has come before this court because public authority has acted capriciously, and she has come in public interest for public good,” Ms Jaising told the Apex Court.

Questioning the move of granting remission, she said that this is what principles of natural justice dictate?

The Gujarat government awarded remission to all 11 convicts and freed them on on August 15, last year. Bano has filed a writ petition in the Top Court challenging the remissions granted to 11 convicts.

The 11 convicts who were 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.

The Court was hearing a batch of pleas, including certain ones filed by third parties, challenging the decision of the Gujarat government to grant remission to 11 convicts who had gang-raped Bilkis Bano and murdered her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

“Instead of protecting rights of women and children, the State has remitted the convicts. Crime committed against Bano cannot be looked at in isolation of what was happening in Gujarat during the Communal and sectarian riots,” she told the Apex Court.

It is a crime against a civilian. This is a violation of gross human rights. State of Gujarat has not considered into the facts that the crime committed against Bilkis Bano was crimes against humanity.

What happened to Bilkis is ‘cruel, inhuman, and degrading, Jaising said.

“Multiple murders, gang-rapes. Bilkis was five months’ pregnant when she was gang raped,” she said.

The trial court judge has rightly said in an adverse manner and refused to give its nod for remission to 11 convicts, keeping in view the nature and brutality of the crimes, Jaising said.

Today the petitioners have concluded their arguments, and the Supreme Court will start hearing from the State of Gujarat on August 17, Thursday, the next date of hearing in the case.

During the course of the hearing, the senior lawyer also said that communal harmony is the hallmark of a democracy. No religion teaches hatred. If in the name of religion, people are killed, that is essentially a slur and blot on the society governed by rule of law.

Religious fanatics really do not belong to any religion. They are no better than terrorists who kill innocent people for no rhyme or reason in a society which is governed by rule of law, Jaising said.

Advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for Subhashini Ali, said that in a lot of cases, it is public spirited individuals and civil society organisations who come first before the court. There are a wide range of issues to be considered, societal effect etc.

She said that there was a CBI probe and trial transferred outside the State, rare case where even doctors were found complicit. In such cases this court has always allowed public spirited individuals because not all…

Even in criminal cases, where crime is of such a nature, where victim is not in position to intervene, and court must monitor, public interest litigation has been entertained, Aparna said.

Lawyer Vrinda Grover, representing a former IPS officer, a former IFS officer, and a professor, said that attacks are on society at large. Attacks here are not only against individual, but also society…

This remission is illegal, because they have not even paid their fines imposed by the Courts. This itself, makes the remission void. Fines have not been paid by any one of the 11 convicts, Grover said.

The convicted persons have not shown any remorse even. It is very much in the knowledge of the Gujarat government that the fines have not been paid by any of the 11 convicts, the lawyer said.

Non payment of fine is very significant. The question of remission doesn’t arise, if the payment of fine has not been paid, while quoting a judgement of the SC, Grover said.

“Ours is also not a case of one murder like this one, but of 14 counts of murder & 3 counts of gang-rape. Fine must be commensurate. This case is not a single murder, rape and gangrape, rather multiple,” Grover said and sought quashing of the Gujarat government order of remission.

Lawyer for National Federation of Indian women, Nizammudin Pasha, argued that the moment order attains finality, right to fair trial has lived itself out. No further right through remission. Only a statutory right to apply & be considered in accordance to law.

“The state has failed in its duty in protecting the rights of cittizens. State has consistently favoured accused & gone against interest of the society,” Mr Pasha said.

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