Bilkis Bano Case: How 11 Convicts Serving Life Sentence Were Released
The 11 were held guilty by a court in 2008 of gang-raping Bilkis Bano in the Gujarat riots and killing seven of her family, who were fleeing the raging violence in their locality.
Bilkis Bano during a press conference at Press club of India, on May 8, 2017 in New Delhi.
Eleven convicts serving life sentences for murder and gangrape were set free from the Godhra sub-jail on Monday after their application for remission of the sentence was accepted by the state government.
A committee was constituted after the order from the Supreme Court. "Good behaviour and compliance with the jail rules" by the convicts were some of the factors that made their case for remission(or premature release) stronger, Sujal Mayatra, the head of the committee and Panchmahal district collector told BOOM.
The 11 convicts included Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Nitesh Bhatt, Ramesh Chandana. They were all held guilty by a court in 2008 of gang-raping Bilkis Bano in the Gujarat riots and killing seven members of her family, who were fleeing the raging violence in their locality.
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The release process
The application for remission was sent to the Bombay High Court and the defence then moved Supreme Court seeking remission. The top court asked the state government to submit a report on the conduct of the convicts in jail to deliberate upon their release in tandem with the remission policy. The 11 men were convicted by Bombay High Court in 2008.
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"The state government sent us a few circulars based on this policy," Mayatra, told BOOM. Later, the jail advisory panel was called upon to see if the circulars were followed and how the conduct of the 11 convictswas in jail, and how many paroles they had taken.
The panel concluded that the convicts were not involved in any "mischief" inside the jail nor any FIR was filed against them while they were out on parole. "Based on these facts, a report was sent to the state government and the order for their release was sent from the Supreme Court," Mayatra said.
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Other reports also quoted Gujarat Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar saying that the application was accepted after taking into several factors such as the "completion of 14 years" in jail, age, nature of the crime, behaviour in prison".
It could be one of the rare cases where the convicts serving a life sentence were let go despite the nature of the crime, which includes the rape of Bilkis Bano and murder of seven members of Bano's family.
The premature release of the convicts came after Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah, one of the 11 convicts, had filed a writ petition seeking the Gujarat government to consider his case for premature release.
Shah had sought premature release under Sections 433 and 433A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 arguing that he had served more than 15 years in jail.
Bilkis Bano Case
Bilkis Bano was 19 years old when the communal riots broke out in Gujarat in 2002. As the violence engulfed many parts of the state, Bano, who was 5-months pregnant then, fled her village along with her 3-year-old daughter and 15 other family members.
Bano and her family reached Chapparwad village on March 3, 2002 to seek refuge in a field. However, they were ambushed by rioters. Armed with sticks, swords and sticks, some 20 people attacked the family. Bilkis, her mother, and three other women were raped and brutalised. According to reports, eight members of the group were found dead, while six were missing. Bilkis, her toddler daughter and a man survived the attack.
When Bano regained consciousness three hours later, she went to a police station with the help of a home guard to register a complaint. However, the constable was later found guilty of "suppressing the material facts" and "writing a distorted and truncated version" of Bano's complaint.
The case went to the National Human Rights Commission and Supreme Court and the probe was handed over to CBI.
Editor's note: This copy has been updated with a correction to reflect that the 11 convicts who were released were accused of killing seven members of Bilkis Bano's family and not 16, as mentioned earlier.
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