Human rights activists, historians and bureaucrats among other eminent personalities have issued a statement urging the Supreme Court to revoke the release of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. Calling the early remission a “grave miscarriage of justice,” they demand the revocation of the pre-mature release of the convicts.
The signatories included over 6,000 ordinary citizens, grassroots workers, human rights activists, eminent writers, historians, scholars, filmmakers, journalists and former bureaucrats among others. A large number of the signatories have signed the appeal as “a woman.” The signature campaign registered participation from Indians in the country as well as overseas.
Prominent groups including Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, Gamana Mahila Samuha, Bebaak Collective, All India Progressive Women’s Association were also part of the signatories.
In a statement, they said, “It shames us that on the day we should celebrate our freedoms and be proud of our Independence, the women of India instead saw gang-rapists and mass murderers freed as an act of State largesse.” It added: “The remission of these sentences is not only immoral and unconscionable, but it also violates the State of Gujarat’s own existing remission policy and the guidelines issued by the central government to states.”
All the 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 post-Godhra Bilkis Bano gang rape case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15. This comes after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. Five of the ten members in the advisory committee are BJP leaders.
The 11 accused — Radheshyam shah, Jaswant Chaturbhai Nai, Keshubhai Vadaniya, Bakabhai Vadaniya, Rajibhai Soni, Rameshbhai Chauhan, Shaileshbhai Bhatt, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Govindbhai Nai, Mitesh Bhatt, Pradip Modhiya — walked out of jail on Monday.
A special CBI court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, sentenced the 11 accused to life imprisonment on the charge of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.
WHAT IS THE CASE?
Bilkis was 20 years old and several months pregnant at the time she was subjected to brutality by men she had apparently known for years. She referred to one of them as ‘Chacha’ (uncle) and the others as brothers. She was gang-raped and left almost lifeless. She saw her family members being killed. Her three-year-old daughter was also murdered in front of her eyes. On regaining consciousness, Bilkis borrowed clothes from a tribal woman and went to the Limkheda police station in Dahod district to register a complaint. The head constable there suppressed facts and wrote a truncated version of the complaint.
It was just the beginning of her ordeal in pursuit of justice. She received death threats, prompting the Supreme Court, in 2004, to move the trial out of Gujarat to Mumbai.
In January 2008, a special CBI court in Mumbai convicted 11 of the 20 accused on charges of conspiracy to rape a pregnant woman, murder, unlawful assembly, and other charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. The head constable was convicted for “making incorrect records” to save the accused. Seven of the 20 accused were acquitted due to lack of evidence. One person died during the course of the trial.