Supreme Court To Hear Plea Against The Release of Convicts of Bilkis Bano case
Godhra riots or ‘Godhra Kand’ is one of the terrifying incidents of the last two decades. It began after the Sabarmati Express train fire that took place at the Godhra station, Gujarat on 27 February 2002. A mob torched one of the coaches consisting of the people ‘Kar Sevak’ of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) returning from Ayodhya to Ahmedabad. The fire charred 59 people to death that brought a rage among the hindu community.
The people blamed muslims for the incident and the violence broke out in the Godhra district and all over the state. People set fire in the house of the neighboring muslims and the riots got converted into a horrific scene.
Bilkis Bano was among the muslims who were running for their lives. Bilkis was moving with her family in a truck but before they reached the destination a mob of 20-30 people attacked the truck and dragged down everyone from the truck.
Bilkis was 21 years old and 5 months pregnant with her second child at that time. The mob grabbed Bilkis’s 3 years old daughter and smashed her head on the road killing her on the spot. Then Bilkis was gangraped by three men belonging to her village and a few people she had known.
14 members of the family of Bilkis were raped, molested and hacked to death by the mob. Assuming that Bilkis was dead the assailants left her unconscious and naked on the road, however she fought and relived the horror day again and again.
Hours later Bilkis gained consciousness and her journey for justice began. She filed an FIR to the local police but it allegedly omitted the crucial details. Then she approached the National Human Rights Commission and the High court.
In December 2003 the High Court ordered the CBI to conduct an investigation regarding the matter. The very next month all the accused were arrested and sent to the trials. Four years later the trial court found 13 out of 20 accused guilty of the incident and the remaining 7 were acquitted for want of evidence.
11 out of the 13 guilty were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Bombay High Court in May 2017. Also the other 7 were quashed from the acquittal. Later Supreme Court ordered the Gujarat government to compensate Bilkis Bano with 50 Lakh rupees and a government job and accomodation.
The 11 convicts who were sentenced to life imprisonment 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.
These convicts had served more than 15 years in the jail after which one of them named Radheshyam Shah had filed a remission plea in the Supreme Court on April 1, 2022. This year on the occasion of Independence that is on 15 August 2022 all the 11 convicts were released by the Gujarat government.
The government stated that the remission plea is accepted based on the 1992 remission policy. However according to 2014 norms a convict of gangrape and murder cannot be released from jail.
The decision of releasing the convicts has left the nation with an outrage as they were welcomed by garlands and sweets like heroes. The decision of the Gujarat government not only triggered the public outrage over the release of rapists and murderers, but experts also pointed out inconsistencies in remission policies that enabled the convicts to walk out of jail.
After the release of this decision Bilkis said that she was bereft of words and still numb. Bilkis expressed her pain by saying- “Today, I can only say this — how can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system and I was slowly learning to live with my trauma. The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice”.
A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana took note of the submissions of petitions by senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi, and lawyer Aparna Bhat against the grant of remission and consequent release of the convicts in the case.
The Supreme Court has agreed on 23 August 2022, that it will look into the request to take up for urgent hearing petitions challenging the remission granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.