Several Opposition leaders slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after two of its leaders from Gujarat were seen sharing a stage with one of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case during an event.
On Saturday, 25 March, BJP MP Jaswantsinh Bhabhor was seen sitting on a dais with Shailesh Bhatt, who is one of the 11 convicts in the case.
Photos of the two posing from the launch of a group water supply scheme in Dahod were shared on Twitter by MP Jaswantsinh and party MLA from Limkheda, Shaileshbhai Bhabhor, who was also present at the event.
'Want To See These Monsters Back in Jail': Mahua Moitra
Slamming the BJP, Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra took to Twitter to say that she wanted to see the convicts back in prison.
"Bilkis Bano's Rapist Shares Stage With Gujarat's BJP MP, MLA. I want to see these monsters back in jail & the key thrown away. And I want this satanic government that applauds this travesty of justice voted out. I want India to reclaim her moral compass," she said.
Congress leader Shama Mohamed drew parallels between this incident and the alleged urgency with which Rahul Gandhi was disqualified from Parliament after his conviction in a 2019 defamation case.
"BJP MP Jasvant Sinh Bhabhor & BJP MLA Sailesh Bhabhor share stage with Bilkis Bano's rapist at an event in Gujarat. The BJP rushed to disqualify @Rahul Gandhi from Parliament for a conviction in a defamation case, but has no hesitation in hobnobbing with rapists-murderers!" the Congress spokesperson said.
'BJP Has Lost its Conscience': Jignesh Mevani
Meanwhile, Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani said that the BJP had "lost its conscience" and "normalised every wrong happening in society."
"Things have clearly moved beyond shame now. Sharing a stage with BJP MP and MLAs is a rapist of Bilkis Bano who spent 15 years in jail," he added.
Calling the BJP "shameful," Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi said that after the party's leaders were seen posing for a photograph with a convicted rapist, there was no need for the BJP to "pretend concern" anymore towards the safety of women.
Bhatt and 10 other men convicted of gang raping Bilkis Bano, and killing 14 members of her family – including her three-year-old daughter – during the Gujarat riots of 2002, were released from a sub-jail in Godhra on 15 August 2022 under the state government's remission policy.
Following the release of the convicts, Bano filed a petition seeking review of the Supreme Court's May 2022 order which said that the Gujarat government was the appropriate authority to grant remission to the convicts.
The review petition was dismissed by the top court in December 2022.
On 24 March, however, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that a special bench would be constituted to hear the petition. The matter has been listed after being mentioned five times before the Supreme Court of India by Bano's lawyer Shobha Gupta.
The plea has been listed before the Supreme Court bench comprising Justice KM Joseph and Justice BV Nagarathna for hearing on 27 March.