All the 11 convicts who were serving a life sentence in the 2002 Bilkis Bano Gangrape case have been released from the Godhra sub-jail after the Gujarat government approved their application under Gujarat Remission Policy. 5 months pregnant Bilkis was gang-raped during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
On January 21, 2008, a special CBI court found 11 accused guilty of gang raping Bilkis and murder of seven members of her family which included her three-year-old daughter. The court sentenced them to life imprisonment.
Additional Home Secretary, Raj Kumar told, “The 11 convicts have served a 14-year sentence in total. According to law, a life term means a minimum period of 14 years after which the convict can apply for remission. It is then the decision of the government to consider the application. Based on eligibility, prisoners are granted remission after the recommendation of the prison advisory committee as well as district legal authorities.”
He added, “Among the parameters considered are age, nature of the crime, behaviour in prison and so on…The convicts in this particular case were also considered eligible after considering all the factors since they had competed for 14 years of their life term.”
The 11 convicts who have been granted premature release include Radhesham Shah, Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana.
Gujarat government has formed a committee after the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat government to look into the remission of sentence of the convicts of Bilkis Bano Case.
“A committee formed a few months back took a unanimous decision in favour of remission of all the 11 convicts in the case. The recommendation was sent to the state government, and yesterday we received the orders for their release,” Panchmahals Collector Sujal Mayatra, Head of the committee.
What Is Bilkis Bano Gangrape case?: Case Background
Bilkis Bano was one of the survivors of the 2002 Gujarat riots which erupted after the burning of a Sabarmati Express coach that killed 59 ‘karsevaks ‘on February 27, 2002. Five months pregnant Bilkis was trying to flee from her village along with her three-year-old daughter and 15 family members.
On March 3, they took shelter in a field. They were attacked by a mob of 20-30 people armed with sickles, swords and sticks. The mob gang-raped Bilkis and murdered seven of her family members. One assailant snatched her toddler daughter and smashed her head on a rock which led to her death.
Considering the outrage and severity of the crime, the Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe. The accused were arrested in 2004. The trial began in Ahmedabad but was later transferred to Mumbai over Bilkis Bano’s apprehensions that witnesses could be harmed and evidence collected can be tampered with.
On January 21, 2008, the special CBI court sentenced all the 11 accused to life imprisonment after convicting them on charges of conspiring to rape a pregnant woman, murder and unlawful assembly under the Indian Penal Code.
The Special Court acquitted seven other accused in the Bilkis Bano case for want of evidence and an accused died during the trial.
In 2018, the Bombay High Court set aside the acquittal of 7 accused and upheld the conviction.
In 2019, the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat government to pay Rs 50 lakh compensation, a job, and a house to Bilkis Bano.
“The honorable Supreme Court has let me know it stands with me. It understood my pain, my suffering and my struggle to regain the constitutional rights that were lost in the violence of 2002. No citizen should have to suffer at the hands of the state, whose duty it is to protect us,” Bilkis responded after the Supreme Court order.
Despite Committing A Heinous Crime, All Convicts In Bilkis Bano Gangrape Case Walked Out Of Jail. Why?
The High Court bench dismissed his application citing the reason that Maharashtra is the appropriate government to decide on the application and not the Gujarat government.
Then, Shah pleaded before the apex court submitting that he had been lodged in jail for over 15 years without remission.
On May 13 this year, the Supreme Court observed that as the crime was committed in Gujarat, the Gujarat government should scrutinize the Shah’s application.
Therefore, the top court directed the Gujarat government to consider Shah’s application for premature release as per the policy dated July 9, 1992, and decide within two months.
Hope Of Victim In System Diminishes With Such Decisions
While commenting on the release order, Human rights lawyer Shamshad Pathan stated that a large number of convicts who have committed a less heinous crime than the Bilkis case continue to languish in jails without any remission.
“When a government takes such a decision the hope of the victim in the system diminishes. Even when the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat government to consider their remission, it should have considered against the remission rather than allowing it,” she added.
“There are several accused whose conviction term is over but they are not released from jails on the grounds that they are part of some gang or are involved in one or two murders. But in heinous cases like this, the Gujarat government easily approves the remission of the convicts and allows them to walk out of the jail,” she added.
Bilkis Bano was 21 years old, and 5 months pregnant when she was sexually assaulted in Ahmedabad while fleeing the violence that broke out post the Sabarmati train incident in Godhra. Her 3 children were killed. Today on India’s 75th Independence Day, her rapists roam free. pic.twitter.com/4Z2Of8W6tQ
— Noopur Patel/નૂપુર પટેલ (@noopurpatel_) August 15, 2022
11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of gangrape and murder of 7 members of #BilkisBano's family walked out of a Godhra sub-jail today. The Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. #2002GujaratRiots @TheQuint pic.twitter.com/u1dawz5zzm
— Himanshi Dahiya (@himansshhi) August 16, 2022
These 11 who are being welcomed with sweets were sentenced for life by the court but released by the govt for gang-raping a pregnant muslim woman, Bilkis Bano during 2002 Gujarat riot. They had also killed her 7 family members, including her 3yr daughter. pic.twitter.com/UqzTed5bbO
— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) August 16, 2022
In his independence day speech today, Narendra Modi spoke about empowering women. This evening, the men who brutally gangraped Bilkis Bano during the anti-Muslim Gujarat carnage have walked free. Happy 75 India #AzadiKaAmritMahotsav #IndependenceDay #IndiaAt75 pic.twitter.com/6ViWsWjcE9
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) August 15, 2022
All humans deserve dignity.
All women are honourable.
But in last 2 days Mohinder Kaur-Bilkis Bano debate shows the dignity & honour of a Muslim woman is lesser than the dignity &honour of a non-Muslim woman.
As a proud Indian Muslim woman, this degradation pains me to the core.
— Arfa Khanum Sherwani (@khanumarfa) December 4, 2020