A charade has been unleashed on justice. The arch criminals who felt no qualms in gang-raping a pregnant woman, brutally killed her 3 year old daughter and seven other family members during the ghastly Gujarat pogrom in 2002 have been released by the BJP-led Gujarat government invoking remission clause on questionable ground and given grand welcome with garlands and sweets. This has put the whole country into shame before the eyes of the world people. On 3 March 2002, when severely frightened Bilkis Bano, a resident of Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district, who was five-month pregnant at that time, fled her village with her toddler daughter and 15 others and took shelter in a field, 20-30 communally incensed gangsters armed with sickles, swords and sticks attacked them. Bilkis was gang raped and saw her girl child and seven other companions hacked to death before her eyes. Her husband and another child somehow managed to escape.
Undaunted and defiant of the trauma and tragedy she underwent, Bilkis courageously knocked the door of judiciary and succeeded in eliciting life imprisonment term for all the 11 offenders from the Court. A special CBI court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, sentenced the 11 to life imprisonment on charges of gangrape and murder. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.
Since then, she also went on receiving life threats obviously from the quarters of vested interest accomplice to the crime. But on 15 August, the BJP government of Gujarat based on the recommendations of a glaringly biased committee that comprised two BJP legislators, invoked so called remission clause which, as per prevailing law, is prohibited and most bare-facedly got the guilty of such a ghastly crime freed from jail. What is more indignant is that these convicts on release were welcomed with sweets and garlands by the arch Hindu communal RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar leaders and activists. One BJP MLA who was on the panel that recommended the release went even to the extent of referring to the rapists and killers as ‘‘Brahmins and Kshatriyas are known to have good sanskar (values)’’. Earlier in June this year, the Union home ministry had issued guidelines to states pertaining to the release of convicted prisoners under a special policy formulated as part of the much-hyped ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ or the celebration of 75 years of independence. As per the said guidelines, special remission was to be granted to prisoners on 15 August 2022, 26 January 2023 (Republic Day) and 15 August 2023. Notably, persons sentenced to life imprisonment and rape convicts are not entitled to be prematurely released as per these guidelines. Shobha Gupta, the lawyer for Bilkis Bano, referred to a 2005 judgement by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, which said that life imprisonment means ‘‘until the last breath’’. ‘‘Further, there are two categories of remissions. With regard to heinous crimes, remission is not a matter of right and secondly, there are factors to be looked into such as the crime, the nature of crime and so on,’’ she said. In fact, the power of premature release given to the executive was meant to ensure an element of human or social justice, that may evade the letter of the law or the judicial process. Often, we find the state governments routinely refuse a premature release, even in a crime done without premeditation, or where there is only a single act or a single victim. In view of that, the release of the Bilkis convicts with such promptness in a case of gangrape and 7 murders, i.e. multiple premeditated crimes and that too during communal conflagration—therefore shocks the people’s conscience. What can be more outrageous than this!
Obviously, the release of such arch criminals is an outright act of bad faith and subversive of the barest precepts of democratic norms, values, ethics and practices. Rather it signifies to what low the rulers have stooped in denying justice to the victims of horrendous crime and eulogizing the criminals who committed that crime. This is unfair, unreasonable, sets an ugly precedent and sends out a potentially dangerous signal of state-granted impunity to the hard-core criminals. Even Justice U.D. Salvi, the former Bombay high court judge who had convicted the culprits regretted saying that ‘‘A very bad precedent has been set. This is wrong, I would say. Now, convicts in other gang rape cases would seek similar reliefs.’’
Only silver lining is that the Supreme Court has taken cognizance of a Public Interest Litigation and issued notice to the Gujarat government and Centre on grant of remission of sentence to 11 lifers. In the meanwhile, the SUCI(C) and AIMSS, its women front, have organized countrywide protest against this most atrocious decision of the BJP-led Gujarat government. In Ahmedabad, Gujarat State Secretary, SUCI(C), and many others were arrested while demonstration was on.
AIMSS condemns release of Bilkis Bano case accused
AIMSS has strongly condemned the Gujarat government’s Remission policy of releasing the 11 convicts who were sentenced to life imprisonment in Bilkis Bano Gang rape and murder of her 8 family members in post-Godhra communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002. One cannot but recall the horror and the trauma faced by Bilkis Bano, a 5-month pregnant housewife, who was gang raped and saw in front of her own eyes killing of her 3 year old daughter and ghastly murder of 7 of her family members by the arch communal hoodlums during the Gujarat pogrom. She withstood the tragedy and fought courageously, moved from court to court and ultimately could elicit life imprisonment to the 11 accused in 2008 by the special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai. Now this most despicable move of the BJP government to release the guilty persons will not only make the life of Bilkis Bano more insecure but also embolden the criminals to commit such horrendous crimes more and more. It is more shocking that the criminals on highly unjust release were felicitated by the arch communal Sangh Parivar affiliates.
AIMSS demanded of the BJP-led Gujarat government to undo the premature release of the convicts and ensure safety and security to the victims.
AIMSS also called upon the right-thinking people of the country to unequivocally condemn the release, demand repeal of the remission order and security and justice to the victims.