Bilkis Bano case: Five convicts move SC seeking more time to surrender

The reasons for seeking an extension of the deadline to surrender include failing health, impending surgery, son's marriage and harvesting crops

Bilkis Bano (photo: National Herald archives)
Bilkis Bano (photo: National Herald archives)


Days after the Supreme Court quashed the remission the Gujarat government had granted them, five of those convicted of gang-raping Bilkis Bano and massacring seven members of her family during the 2002 communal riots moved the court on Thursday, seeking more time to surrender.

The top court had on 8 January annulled the remission the Gujarat government had granted the 11 convicts in the high-profile case while slamming the State for being "complicit" with an accused and abusing its discretion. It ordered the convicts, who were released prematurely on Independence Day in 2022, to go back to jail within two weeks.

The reasons for seeking extension of the deadline to surrender include failing health, impending surgery, son's marriage and harvesting ripe crops.

The matter was mentioned before a bench of justices B.V. Nagarathana and Sanjay Karol, which asked the registry to place their applications before chief justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

"It is stated by the respondents that applications have been filed for an extension of time to surrender and report to jail. Since the bench has to be reconstituted, registry to seek orders from CJI for reconstitution of the bench since time expires on Sunday," the bench said.

Senior advocate V. Chitambaresh, appearing for some of the convicts, mentioned the matter and sought its urgent listing on Friday since the deadline to surrender expires on 21 January.

The five convicts who have sought relief are Govind Nai, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Ramesh Chandana and Mitesh Bhatt.

"The respondent himself is an old man who is suffering from asthma and is in really poor health. It is further submitted that the respondent was recently operated upon and had to undergo an angiography. It is also submitted that the Respondent is yet to undergo another operation for the treatment of 'Hemorrhoids'," Nai said in his plea. He also cited his bedridden 88-year-old father's ill health to seek relief.

In his plea seeking more time to surrender, Chandana said he was looking after his crops and that were ready for harvest. He said he is the only male member in the family and has to take care of the crops.

"Further, applicant's young son is of marriageable age and the applicant bears the responsibility to look after this affair and with kind indulgence of this Honourable Court may even complete this affair," Chandana said.

Mordhiya submitted he requires regular consultation with doctors after he underwent a lung surgery. Another convict, Mitesh Bhatt, said his winter crops are ready for harvest and he needs to complete the task before surrendering.

Joshi has cited a recent leg surgery to seek relief. The 11 convicts released prematurely were: Bakabhai Vohania, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Govind Nai, Jaswant Nai, Mitesh Bhatt, Pradeep Mordhiya, Radheshyam Shah, Rajubhai Soni, Ramesh Chandana and Shailesh Bhatt.

Excoriating the Gujarat government for remitting their sentences, the apex court had said it "usurped" the power of the Maharashtra government to grant remission. The Bilkis Bano case was transferred from a Gujarat court to a court in Mumbai, and the Supreme Court said the Maharashtra government was vested with the power to grant remission.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while trying to escape the horror of the communal riots that broke out after the Godhra train burning incident in February 2002. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members killed.

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