It was least expected that a judge on the panel- a woman herself- to hear the landmark case would “recuse” herself.
In legal terms, recuse refers to a judge, prosecutor, or juror “unqualified to perform legal duties because of a potential conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.” That Justice Bela M. Trivedi should have recused herself leaves a lot unsaid.
Justice Bela M Trivedi, part of the Supreme Court bench that was to hear Bilkis Bano’s plea challenging the remission and release of 11 convicts in the 2002 case related to her gang rape and murder of seven members of her family on December 13, recused herself from the hearing today. The matter was hence adjourned, and will have to be listed in a new bench.
As soon as a bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi took up the matter for hearing, Justice Rastogi said that his sister judge will not like to hear the case.
“List the matter before a bench in which one of us is not a member”, the bench headed by Justice Rastogi ordered. The bench did not specify any reason for the recusal of justice Trivedi.
Bilkis Bano, in two separate petitions, had challenged the early release of the convicts by the Gujarat government on August 15, saying the state government passed a mechanical order completely ignoring the requirement of law as laid down by the Supreme Court.
Bilkis Bano was 21 and five-month pregnant when she was gang raped during the 2002 Gujarat riots that followed the Godhra train burning incident. Her three-year-old daughter was also among the seven members of her family who were killed.
“The decision to once again stand up and knock on the doors of justice was not easy for me. For a long time, after the men who destroyed my entire family and my life were released, I was simply numb. I was paralysed with shock and with fear for my children, my daughters, and above all, paralysed by loss of hope,” she had said at the time of filing of the petitions.
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