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Why was parole granted to 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano case, asks Supreme Court

"Apples cannot be compared with oranges, similarly massacre cannot be compared with single murder"

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed its displeasure and questioned as to why parole was granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, when the gravity of the offence should have been considered by the Gujarat government.

The Supreme Court said, “Apples cannot be compared with oranges, similarly massacre cannot be compared with single murder,” a two-judge bench of the Apex Court, headed by Justice K M Joseph, and also comprising Justice B V Nagarathna said.

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Bano was 21 years old and five months 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.

The Top court said, “Just because Union has approved does not mean, the state (Gujarat govt) is not required to apply mind. Today, this is this lady, and tomorrow it could be someone else.There must be objective standards.”

The bench issued notice to the Centre, Gujarat government and the convicts on the plea filed by Bano and asked the parties to complete the pleadings by the next date of hearing.

“Every action should be for public good,” the Supreme Court said and posted the matter for further hearing to May first week.

The apex court has today posted the batch of pleas challenging remission to convicts in the case for final disposal on May.

The Apex Court granted UOI & Guj govt time till May 1 to take a call on whether it wishes to file review of its March 27 order directing UOI & state to be ready with files granting remission to 11 convicts.

The Centre and Gujarat Govt claimed privilege over the files relating to the grant of remission to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, adding they are likely to seek review of the court order.

The Apex Court also questioned the reservations, of both the Govts, and asked what’s there to hide if a legal decision was taken.

The Top Court fixed the next hearing on May 2 but emphasised that the crime in question was “horrendous” and it’s imperative for the Gujarat Govt to show application of mind in allowing pre-mature release of the 11 convicts.

Bilkis Bano, through her lawyer, Shobha Gupta, had filed the writ petition challenging the remission or premature release given to 11 gangrape convicts.

Bilkis Bano, had filed a writ petition, after the Supreme Court had last year, after her review petition was dismissed last year in December.

In March 2002 during the post-Godhra riots, Bano was allegedly gang-raped and left to die with 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter. She was five months pregnant when rioters attacked her family in Vadodara.

Supreme Court’s December 13’s 3-page order, dismissed her review plea and said that it has perused the review petition as well as the connected papers in support thereof and the judgements referred to by the petitioner.

The Supreme Court also had rejected Bilkis Bano’s application for listing the matter for open Court.

The Gujarat government had released the 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment on August 15. All the 11 life-term convicts in the case were released as per the remission policy prevalent in Gujarat at the time of their conviction in 2008.

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