Bilkis Bano Case: Supreme Court Ponders Over Convict’s Law Practice Eligibility

In a recent session, the Supreme Court deliberated the suitability of a convict, released ahead of his complete sentence term, to return to his profession as a lawyer. This issue emerged from the Bilkis Bano gangrape case, raising eyebrows at the highest judicial level.

A Bench represented by Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan acknowledged the law profession’s esteemed reputation. They probed the role of the State Bar Council in such instances, specifically questioning if they could authorize a prematurely released convict to return to the legal profession. Justice Bhuyan posed a direct query: “Is it permissible to grant a licence to practice law post-conviction?”

The discussion gained momentum when the court was informed that Radheyshyam Shah, one of the convicts, is currently an active Bar member, specializing in motor accident claims. Shah’s representative, Advocate Rishi Malhotra, emphasized that Shah had undergone his sentence. However, the court observed that Shah had not fulfilled his entire sentence; he had merely been granted an early release.

Advocate Malhotra highlighted the broader perspective of the criminal justice system. He pointed out that its primary goal isn’t punitive but rehabilitative. Reflecting on Shah’s background, Malhotra noted that his client was actively practicing law before his conviction and has presently returned to the profession to earn a living.

Earlier discussions on this case were marked by Bilkis Bano’s moving account, challenging the early release of the 11 convicts. She poignantly detailed the harrowing brutality that culminated in the deaths of at least seven individuals. Advocate Shobha Gupta, representing Ms. Bano, narrated the horrifying events that unfolded during the Gujarat riots of 2002. She particularly emphasized the tragedy at Pannivel village on March 3, where, out of 14 victims, only seven bodies were eventually located.

This case now prompts the judiciary and the broader legal community to introspect on the balance between reformative justice and the prestige of the legal profession.


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