Revoke Bilkis Bano case convicts' release: 6,000 citizens urge SC
Over 6,000 citizens including bureaucrats, women and human rights' activists, historians and grassroots workers among others have urged the Supreme Court in a joint statement to revoke the early release of 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano case. They called the remission of their sentence a "a grave miscarriage of justice" and that it set a dangerous precedent.
- Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when riots erupted in Gujarat following the burning of the Sabarmati express train.
- On March 3, 2002, Bano and her family were attacked by a mob that raped her and slaughtered her family members in Randhikpur hamlet near Ahmedabad.
- Over 1,000 people were reportedly killed in the Gujarat riots in 2002.
The letter to SC reads that on Independence Day "the women of India instead saw gang-rapists and mass murderers freed as an act of State largesse." "The remission of sentences for the 11 [men] convicted of gang-rape and mass murder will have a chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to 'trust the system', 'seek justice', have faith'," it said.
In the joint statement, they said that the remission of these sentences was not only immoral and unconscionable, but it had also violated the State of Gujarat's own existing remission policy and the guidelines issued by the central government to states. "In a case investigated and prosecuted by the CBI, no remission can be granted by a State without concurrence by the Centre."
In June, the Union Home Ministry had issued guidelines for special remission of convicts on August 15, 2022 and January 26, 2023 as part of India's 75th year of independence. Under the guidelines, however, it was made clear than persons serving life imprisonment and rape convicts would not be entitled to premature release. Despite this, the Centre gave a go ahead to the remission.
Bano had said that her 'faith in the justice system was shaken'. On the other hand, BJP's MLA from Godhra CK Raulji recently drew flak for terming the rapists as "Brahmins" with "good sanskaar". Despite them being convicted and the decision being upheld by High Court, he went ahead to say that they might have been cornered and punished due to someone's ill intentions.
Bilkis Bano had known the perpetrators for years as they were her neighbors.. She addressed the perpetrators as uncle and brothers who had gang-raped her. She was several months pregnant at the time of the incident. She had reached the police station to lodge a complaint after borrowing clothes from a tribal woman. The constable had truncated her complaint and suffered punishment later.