Supreme Court judge Justice Bela M Trivedi Wednesday recused herself from hearing a batch of pleas challenging the remission of sentence of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case in which she was gang-raped and seven members of her family were killed during the 2002 Gujarat 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. “Since my sister judge has already recused from hearing the victim’s plea, she would like to recuse from hearing this matter also,” Justice Rastogi said. Justice Rastogi said now that the victim has approached this court challenging the remission to convicts, her plea will be taken as a lead matter. The rest of the petitions will be tagged along with her plea when the bench will sit with a different combination of judges, Justice Rastogi said.
“We will list all the matters on the next date and tag along all the petitions. All the pleadings should be complete by then,” the bench said. 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.
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.
The 11 men convicted in the case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 last year after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. They had completed more than 15 years in jail.