Supreme Court Judge Justice Bela M Trivedi Recuses Self from Hearing Bilkis Bano Case


NEW DELHI — Supreme Court judge Justice Bela M Trivedi on Wednesday recused herself from hearing pleas challenging the pre-mature release of 11 convicts, who had gang-raped Bilkis Bano and murdered seven of her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots.

A bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi took up the batch of pleas, 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 by the Gujarat government.

As Justice Trivedi recused to hear the matter, Justice Rastogi said the court couldn’t pass the order to tag the PILs with the one filed by Bilkis Bano.

“Since my sister (Justice Trivedi) wants to recuse, we cannot pass a tagging order. Now that the victim is here… we will take the victim’s matter as a lead matter… List before the bench wherein Justice Trivedi is not a member,” the bench said, adding that all the matters will be tagged when the bench in different combinations will sit, reports ANI.

As counsel of convicts questioned the locus standing of the petitioners who filed PILs against the remission granted to 11 convicts, the bench said once there is a plea by the victim then the point of locus goes.

Earlier, Justice Trivedi recused herself from hearing the plea filed by Bilkis Bano against remission granted to convicts.

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

Gujarat government in its affidavit had defended remission granted to convicts saying they completed 14 years of sentence in prison and their “behaviour was found to be good”.

The government had also questioned the locus standi of petitioners who filed the PIL challenging the decision saying they are outsiders to the case.

The pleas said they have challenged the order of competent authority of the government of Gujarat by way of which 11 persons who were accused in a set of heinous offences committed in Gujarat were allowed to walk free on August 15, 2022, pursuant to remission being extended to them.

The remission in this heinous case would be entirely against public interest and would shock the collective public conscience, as also be entirely against the interests of the victim (whose family has publicly made statements worrying for her safety), pleas stated.

Bano was 21 years old and five-month pregnant when she was gang-raped 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.

Investigation into 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 convicts to life imprisonment.

Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.

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