Bilkis convicts freed after GoI nod: Gujarat govt to SC

The state home department said that all the convicts had completed more than 14 years in prison under life imprisonment.

The Gujarat government, in a 458-page affidavit in the Supreme Court, defended it decision to free 11 lifers in the Bilkis Bano case, and said, “The state government has considered the cases of all 11 prisoners as per the policy of 1992 and remission was granted on August 10. The remission was not granted under the circular governing grant of remission to prisoners as part of celebration of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’.” The state government annexed documents related to the grant of remission process with its affidavit.

The state home department said that all the convicts had completed more than 14 years in prison under life imprisonment. “Opinions of the concerned authorities have been obtained as per the policy of July 9, 1992 and submitted to the ministry of home affairs, government of India, vide letter dated June 28, 2022, and sought the approval/suitable orders of the government of India,” it said.

“The government of India conveyed the concurrence/approval of the central government under Section 435 of the Criminal Procedure Code for premature release of 11 prisoners vide letter dated July 11, 2022,” the state said, justifying the grant of remission on August 10.

It referred to the SC’s May 13 order directing that though the trial of the case took place in Maharashtra, it would be the Gujarat government which would be the appropriate authority to consider the plea for grant of remission of the convicts. It had also directed that the remission applications be considered as per the then prevailing policy, that is of the year 1992. The SC had asked the state to consider the remission applications within two months.

Giving details of the process of consideration prior to grant of remission, the state government branded PIL petitioners Subhashini Ali, Revati Laul and Roop Rekha Verma as “interlopers who had no locus standi” in the case.

The petitioners have no locus standi to challenge the remission orders passed by the competent authority strictly as per applicable law in the instant case under the garb of PIL, which is not maintainable in a criminal case, it said.

“The petitioners are in no way connected to the proceedings which either convicted the accused in question nor with the proceedings which culminated in grant of remission to the convicts. Thus, the petition at the instance of a mere busybody which has political machinations is liable to be dismissed,” it said.

“In the present case, there is not even a whisper in the pleadings as to how the petitioners were aggrieved by the order passed by the state government granting remission to the 11 convicts who have already suffered incarceration for more than 14 years,” it said seeking dismissal of the PIL.