Wednesday, August 17, 2022

bilkis bano gangrape case convicts set free by gujrat government

Prajakta Kadam

The Gujarat government has decided to release the 11 accused who were sentenced to life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case that took place during the Gujarat riots in 2002 after the Godhra massacre. As part of it, these 11 convicts walked out of Godhra sub-jail on Independence Day. Opposition parties in Gujarat and especially organizations fighting for human rights are expressing anger over the decision of the Gujarat government. While the accused in less serious crimes are languishing in jails, questions are being raised on the role of the Gujarat government as the accused in this case were released prematurely. In the background of all this, it is necessary to know who Bilkis Bano is and what exactly happened in 2002, why these accused were released prematurely, what the law says about amnesty.

Claim of Gujarat Govt

The accused accused in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case have spent 14 years in jail. Moreover, the home secretary of Gujarat has claimed that his application for early release was considered due to his age, nature of crime, behavior in jail. Moreover, the Supreme Court had ordered to consider the premature arrest of these accused. The Supreme Court had clarified to consider the applications of these accused as per the 1992 policy. But the accused were convicted of the charges against them in 2008. Therefore, as per the policy of 1992 applicable to him at that time, Gujarat government is also claiming that he was released prematurely by pardoning his sentence. The government is also saying that there is a difference between this policy and the newly introduced policy in 2014. In the previous policy, it was not clear which accused would get the benefit, but in the 2014 policy, this matter has been strictly mentioned by the Gujarat government.

So why argue over the decision of the Gujarat government?

It is being alleged that the Gujarat government’s decision to grant early release to the accused in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case is against the special policy announced by the central government in June. Through this policy, the central government had ordered the states to release the prisoners on the anniversary year of independence. But accused convicted of rape were excluded from this policy. While this is the case, questions are being raised as to why those who raped Bilkis were released, why those who were convicted of less serious crimes were not released.

What does the law say?

Under the law, life imprisonment means a minimum term of 14 years after which the convict can apply for parole. The government has the right to consider this application. On the basis of merit, prisoners are granted amnesty after the recommendation of the Jail Advisory Committee as well as District Legal Officers. But while granting remission in punishment, various aspects related to the accused are taken into consideration. Every state has its own policy and on the occasion of national festivals, convicts are released prematurely.

Who was Bilkis Bano?

Bilkis, along with her three-year-old daughter Saleha and 15 family members, fled the village for their lives during the riots that erupted in Gujarat in 2002 after the Godhra massacre. Bilkis was five months pregnant at that time. On March 3, all of them took shelter in a farm. As soon as he heard his voice, a mob of 20 to 30 people attacked him. The assailants killed seven members of Bilkis’ family. That includes her daughter. While Bilkis was gang-raped by the accused on one side, the accused snatched her daughter from her and threw her on a stone. She died in it.

…so the case is classed in the court in Mumbai!

After Bilkis approached the National Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Court had ordered a CBI inquiry into the matter. Further, after Bilkis alleged that the accused had threatened to kill him, in August 2004 the Supreme Court ordered the transfer of the case from Gujarat to Maharashtra.

Bilkis Bano gang rape case: Release of 11 convicts serving life sentence

Judge U of the Special CBI Court in Mumbai. D. On January 21, 2008, Salvi convicted 13 accused and sentenced 11 of them to life imprisonment for gang rape and murder. Subsequently, in May 2017, the Bombay High Court upheld this sentence. At the same time, the decision of the special court acquitting seven policemen was also annulled.

What did the CBI investigation find?

The post-mortem examination was done wrongly to save the accused. During the investigation, when the bodies of those killed in the attack were exhumed, it was revealed that none of the seven bodies had skulls. The CBI had told the court that the heads of the dead bodies were severed after post-mortem to avoid identification.

Supreme Court orders compensation to Bilkis

In 2019, the Supreme Court ordered Bilkis to pay Rs 50 lakh as compensation. This is the first such order passed in a case related to the 2002 riots. A bench of then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna ordered compensation to Bilkis, stating that what should not have happened has happened and the Gujarat government has to pay compensation to Bilkis.

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