Justice Bela M Trivedi, part of the Supreme Court bench that was to hear Bilkis Bano’s plea challenging the remission and release of 11 convicts in the 2002 case related to her gang rape and murder of seven members of her family on December 13, recused herself from the hearing today. The matter was hence adjourned, and will have to be listed in a new bench.
As soon as a bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi took up the matter for hearing, Justice Rastogi said that his sister judge will not like to hear the case.
“List the matter before a bench in which one of us is not a member”, the bench headed by Justice Rastogi ordered.
The bench did not specify any reason for the recusal of justice Trivedi.
Bilkis Bano, in two separate petitions, had challenged the early release of the convicts by the Gujarat government on August 15, saying the state government passed a mechanical order completely ignoring the requirement of law as laid down by the Supreme Court.
Bilkis Bano was 21 and five-month pregnant when she was gang raped during the 2002 Gujarat riots that followed the Godhra train burning incident. Her three-year-old daughter was also among the seven members of her family who were killed.
“The decision to once again stand up and knock on the doors of justice was not easy for me. For a long time, after the men who destroyed my entire family and my life were released, I was simply numb. I was paralysed with shock and with fear for my children, my daughters, and above all, paralysed by loss of hope,” she had said at the time of filing of the petitions.
The investigation in 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 to life imprisonment.
Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.
However, in October, the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that it had the Centre’s approval for the release of the 11 convicts and also cited their “good behaviour”.
However, contrary to the state government’s claims, FIRs and police complaints accessed by NDTV show that the 11 convicts were accused of threatening and harassing witnesses while out on parole. Between 2017-2021, at least four witnesses in the case registered complaints and FIRs against the convicts.