From PMLA to Bilkis Bano case: A busy day for Chief Justice Ramana before his retirement!

Chief Justice of India NV Ramana would have a busy penultimate day ahead of his retirement as he is going to take up some of the crucial and nationwide prominent cases on Thursday - August 25. Ramana is set to demit his office on August 26 and he will be succeeded by Justice Udhay Umesh Lalit as the next Chief Justice of India.

According to LiveLaw, Chief Justice Ramana will be sitting on six different Supreme Court benches on Thursday and will hear crucial cases such as the plea to review the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act), Pegasus, and public litigation filed against the premature release of eleven convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. Their release was granted by the BJP-ruling Gujarat government and it has sparked a nationwide outcry. 

Chief Justice Ramana will join the bench of justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli to hear the Pegasus case where several Public Interest Litigations (PIL) were filed to seek a probe into the allegations of surveilling the activists and journalists using the spyware Pegasus, which is built by Israeli firm NSO Group. It has been reported that the same bench will pronounce the orders in the case seeking a probe into the major security lapse during Prime Minister Modi's visit to Punjab earlier this year. 

Following the Pegasus case, Chief Justice Ramana will join the bench of Justices Dinesh Maheswari and CT Ravikumar to pass the orders on the review petitions against the apex court's earlier verdict on the provisions of PMLA, which grant more powers to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in raiding, arresting, and attaching the assets. The Chief Justice bench has allowed an open court hearing in the review. 

From the PMLA bench, Chief Justice Ramana will sit along with Justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath to hear what the entire nation is watching out for - the litigation challenging the release of eleven convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. The bench will hear the petition filed by CPI (M) MP Subhasini Ali, journalist Revati Laul & Prof Roop Rekha Verma challenging the Gujarat government's decision to grant remission to all the eleven convicts. 

All these eleven convicts were awarded life imprisonment by a special CBI court in 2008. They were convicted of gang-raping Bilkis Bano and murdering seven of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. They were imprisoned in Godhra prison and after serving 15 years of incarceration, one of the convicts approached the Supreme Court with a plea for his premature release. Based on his plea, the top court has issued a direction to the Gujarat government to look into the issue of remission of his sentence as per its 1992 policy on the basis of the date of his conviction. 

The BJP government had then installed a committee and issued an order allowing the premature release of all the convicts from jail. With the release order, all the eleven convicts walked out of Godhra prison on August 15 and they were welcomed with garlands as they got released from the prison. The decision to release them had triggered a huge outrage with several parties and activists voicing against the release. A petition to repeal their release has been moved to the Supreme Court, which will be heard by Chief Justice Ramana.