Gujarat government reply in Bilkis Bano case 'very bulky': Supreme Court
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Gujarat government, agreed with the observation made by the court and said it could have been avoided.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that Gujarat government's response to petitions challenging the remission granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case is "very bulky", where, instead of factual statements, a series of judgments have been cited.
A bench, headed by justice Ajay Rastogi, orally observed that he has not come across a counter affidavit where a series of judgments have been quoted. "A very bulky counter. Where is the factual statement, where is the application of mind?" he asked.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Gujarat government, agreed with the observation made by the court and said it could have been avoided. "The judgments were mentioned for easy reference, it could have been avoided," he said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing petitioners, submitted that he needed time to file the response in the matter. Justice Rastogi observed that even before he could go through the state government's counter-affidavit, it was visible in the newspapers. Mehta vehemently argued that strangers and third parties cannot raise the challenge to the release of the convicts.
The bench, also comprising Justice C.T. Ravikumar, granted time to petitioners to file their response to the state government's counter affidavit and scheduled the matter for further hearing on November 29.
In an affidavit, the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that it decided to release the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case as they had completed 14 years and above in prison and their behaviour was found to be good and also the Centre had also conveyed its "concurrence/ approval".
The state government also added 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 last year, opposed premature release of the convicts.
The CBI official, in letters to the Superintendent of Godhra sub-jail, said the offence committed by the convicts was heinous, grave and serious, hence they cannot be released prematurely.
In an affidavit, the state Home Department's Under Secretary said: "I say that the state government considered all the opinions and decided to release 11 prisoners since they have completed 14 years and above in prisons and their behaviour was found to be good."
"The Government of India conveyed the concurrence/ approval of the Central Government under section 435 of the CrPC for premature release of 11 prisoners vide letter dated July 11, 2022," it added. (IANS)