Bilkis case: SC adjourns hearing until November 29; Gujarat government counter says ‘very bulky’

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Petitioners seeking time to respond to the affidavit filed by the Gujarat government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday adjourned to November 29 the hearing on the petitions challenging surrender of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.

Allowing the time request, the bench of Judges Ajay Rastogi and CT Ravikumar also told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the counter affidavit filed by the State of Gujarat is “very large” and “bulky”.

In the counter affidavit, a “series of judgments were cited…so many judgments that we don’t know where the statement of fact is, where the application of the spirit is,” Judge Rastogi said.

Mehta agreed that it could have been avoided and said the only purpose was to facilitate consultation with the judges.

The bench told the parties that if they wanted to file a rebuttal affidavit, they had to do so before the next court date.

In an affidavit filed Monday, the The Gujarat government had said it had decided to release the 11 convicts since they had “spent 14 years and more in prison… (that) their behavior was judged good”, and that the Center had also “transmitted (its) agreement/approval”. The State also said that the “Superintendent of Police, CBI, Special Crime Branch, Mumbai” and the “Special Civil Judge (CBI), City Civil and Sessions Court, Greater Bombay”, had, in March of the year, opposed to their early release. .

On August 15, the Gujarat government had released the 11 convicts, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008. The state government cited a “unanimous” recommendation by the Prison Advisory Committee to grant them a release. penalty for “good behavior”.

Since then, the Supreme Court has issued notices to the state government regarding two petitions challenging their release – one filed by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul and academic Roop Rekha Verma; and the other by Trinamool Congressman Mahua Moitra.

The applicants argued that the rebate was granted without the Centre’s authorization. In their plea, Ali and the two petitioners said the matter had been investigated by the CBI and “consequently, the granting of a remission only by the competent authority of a government of State/State of Gujarat…without any consultation with the central government…is inadmissible in terms of the mandate of Section 435 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973”.

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