The Supreme Court on Thursday, 25 August, issued notice to the Gujarat government in the petition against the remission granted 11 lifers convicted for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The apex court also asked the petitioners to make the 11 convicts party in the case. Both the state government and the convicts have been asked to file their responses in two weeks, when the matter has been next listed.
"Question is, under Gujarat rules, are the convicts entitled to remission or not? We've to see whether there was application of mind in this case while granting remission," the apex court said, reported news agency ANI.
The convicts had been released by the Gujarat government on 15 August, leading to a nationwide outcry.
The apex court had on Tuesday agreed to hear the petitions filed by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Subhashini Ali, and another petitioner represented by advocate Aparna Bhat.
The 11 convicts who were granted premature release are Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana.
Bilkis Bano Case
The convicted men had been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Mumbai court in 2008 for gang-raping Bano and killing seven members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter, amid the riots. The sentence was also upheld by the Bombay High Court.
After serving 15 years of his sentence, Radheshyam Shah approached the Supreme Court seeking remission of the sentence and his premature release.
The court then passed on the matter to the Gujarat government, which decided to release them under an outdated remission policy. The government had taken advice from an advisory committee, replete with links to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that backed their release and unanimously pushed for their remission.
The 10-member committee comprised two current BJP legislators and three other members of the saffron party.
The convicts were felicitated upon their release from the Godhra sub-jail, with locals touching their feet, offering them sweets, and applying tilak on their foreheads.
In her first statement after their release, Bano said, "I was bereft of words. I am still numb. Today, I can say only this – how can justice for any woman end like this?"
She further said, "Two days ago, on August 15, 2022 the trauma of the past 20 years washed over me again. When I heard that the 11 convicted men who devastated my family and my life, and took from me my 3-year-old daughter, had walked free."
'Give Justice to Bilkis Bano': Rahul, Priyanka Gandhi
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, meanwhile, took to Twitter and urged that justice be given to Bilkis Bano.
"Those giving hollow slogans like 'Beti Bachao' are saving the rapists. Today the question is about the respect and entitlement of the women of the country. Give justice to Bilkis Bano," tweeted Rahul Gandhi.
"The government has drawn its line by keeping silence on the rhetoric in support of the release of 11 people convicted of rape, their welcome on camera. But the women of the country have hope from the Constitution. The Constitution also gives courage to the woman standing in the last row to fight for justice. Give justice to Bilkis Bano," said Priyanka Gandhi in a tweet written in Hindi.