In a matter of internal ignominy, the US federal government commission, namely the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Friday, August 19, 2022, strongly condemned the early release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.
“USCIRF strongly condemns the early and unjustified release of 11 men sentenced to life in prison for raping a pregnant Muslim woman and committing murder against Muslim victims during the 2002 Gujarat Riots,” as per the statement released by Vice Chair Abraham Cooper of USCIRF.
In the meantime, the USCIRF Commissioner Stephen Schneck mentioned the release of convicts as a ‘travesty of justice’ and alleged that it was a part of ‘Pattern of Impunity’ for those involved in the violence against religious minorities.
On August 15, 2022, the Gujarat government had freed all of the 11 convicts namely, Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana, who were involved in the case.
Meanwhile, TRS MLC K Kavitha Kalvakuntla of Telangana Rashtra Samithi urged the Chief Justice of the apex court, NV Ramana to intervene and reverse the release of 11 people convicted for rape and murder in the Bilkis Bano case of the 2022 post-Godhra riots.
“I am writing to you with a heavy heart regarding the Bilkis Bano case of the 2022 Gujarat riots where the Gujarat government released 11 convicts, relying on a 1992 policy following the direction of the Supreme Court, while the state government’s revised policy of 2014 would have made them ineligible for remission,” stated Kavitha.
Underlining the crucial, technical and legal viewpoints, the TRS leader stressed that the case was investigated by India’s premier investigating agency- the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and it was Special CBI Court that had condemned the convicts.
“Section 435(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code states that the power of the state government to remit or commute a sentence in any case which was investigated by the CBI not be exercised by the state government, except after consultation with the central government. Whether the release of the 11 convicts, in this case, was done in consultation with the Central government,” she uttered.
Along the same line and length, while mentioning further regarding Gujarat’s 2014 remission policy, she highlighted, “ It has to be taken into consideration that the 1992 policy was substituted by the 2014 policy to align the remission policy of the state government with the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated November 20, 2012, in criminal appeal no. 490-491 of 2011, where the Supreme Court observed that the remission powers of the appropriate government should not be exercised arbitrarily and should be exercised with some inherent procedural and substantive checks on the said power.”
She questioned the practices followed behind the release of all the 11 convicts.
Following the post-Godhra riots in the year 2002, Bano, who was five-months pregnant, when the rioters attacked her family, was allegedly gang-raped. A special CBI court in Mumbai had sentenced 11 out of 19 accused to life-imprisonment on January 21, 2008.