New Delhi, May 2: The Centre and the Gujarat government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that they would not claim privilege over the documents in connection with the remission of sentence of convicts in Bilkis Bano gang-rape and murder of her family members' case during the Gujarat riots, and agreed to share the documents with the apex court for its perusal.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre and Gujarat government, submitted before a bench headed by Justice K.M. Joseph and comprising justice B V Nagarathna that they do not claim privilege over files in connection with grant of remission to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. Bilkis Bano Case: Supreme Court Dismisses Review Petition Against May 13 Judgment on Remission Policy.

Mehta submitted that the Centre and the state government will also not seek review of the apex court's earlier order directing them to bring on record documents in connection with the remission of the convicts. Raising objection to the petitions filed in the matter other than by Bano, Mehta said it will have wide ramifications and third parties will come to the courts in criminal cases. Bilkis Bano Case: Supreme Court Asks Gujarat Govt To Give Reasons for Releasing Convicts, Says ‘Today It Is Bilkis, Tomorrow It Can Be Anybody’.

The top court recorded Mehta's statement that Centre and Gujarat government are not seeking review of the order regarding the direction of production of records. The bench said it will hear the matter on May 9, as counsel for convicts said that they need time to file their replies to the plea by Bano.

On April 18, the Centre and the Gujarat government, before the Supreme Court, claimed privilege over files in connection with the grant of remission to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.

The Centre's counsel had said the government is likely to seek review of the court's March 27 order, asking them to be ready with the original files on remission granted to the convicts.

During the hearing on Tuesday, Justice Joseph said the court is only fixing timelines, so that the new bench which hears the matter should not have to waste time on these procedural issues.

"I am retiring during vacation on June 16. My last working day will be on May 19. My sister (Justice Nagarathna) will be going to attend a conference in Singapore till May 25. If all of you agree, then we can sit during the vacation and finish the hearing," Justice Joseph said.

Advocate Shobha Gupta, representing Bano, submitted that only the question of law needs to be decided and the matter will not take a long time and counsel for other petitioners also requested the court to take up the matter before vacation.

Advocate Rishi Malhotra, appearing for a convict, said what was the "tearing hurry" in hearing the case, as the respondents have been released and are out for around one year.

Mehta contended that the bench may list the matter for hearing before court's summer vacation. Justice Joseph told Gupta: "It is apparent from the way counsel appearing for convicts that they do not want this hearing to take place. It is more than obvious".

Justice Joseph said every time when the matter is listed for hearing, someone would come saying that he needed time to file a reply. After hearing submissions, the top court said a new bench would take up the matter for a hearing in the second week of July.

In the previous hearing, the top court had noted that a pregnant woman, Bilkis Bano, was gang-raped and several people were killed and the case cannot be compared with a standard Section 302 (murder) cases, and while stressing on the gravity of the offence and on the remission granted to 11 convicts, said: "Unequals cannot be treated equally."

The 11 men convicted in the case were released on August 15 last year, after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. The convicts had completed 15 years in jail. A batch of petitions have been filed against the release of 11 convicts, including the one filed by Bano.

The other petitions were filed by CPI-M leader Subhashini Ali, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, National Federation of Indian Women, Meeran Chadha Borwankar and others, Asma Shafique Shaikh and others. The top court had issued notice on all the pleas filed in the matter.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on May 02, 2023 08:24 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website