New Dehi: Gangrape survivor Bilkis Bano on Wednesday approached the Supreme Court, challenging the premature release of the 11 convicts who raped her and murdered her family during the Gujarat riots in 2002.
Bano filed a review plea against the apex court’s order in May, 2022 which held that the Gujarat government had the jurisdiction to decide the remission plea of the convicts although the trial was held in Maharashtra.
The apex court agreed to look into her plea after advocate Shobha Gupta mentioned the petition filed by Bilkis Bano before Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.
The 11 men, who were sentenced to life, were released from Godhra sub-jail on 15 August under the Gujarat government’s 1992 remission policy. The convicts had been in jail for more than 15 years, and were let out because of their “good behavior”.
Following nationwide outrage after the convicts were released by the Gujarat government — particularly after images surfaced of them being garlanded in their village – a plea was filed in the top court by CPI(M) member Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul, social activist and professor Roop Rekha Verma and Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra.
“The remission in this heinous case would be entirely against public interest and would shock the collective public conscience, as also be entirely against the interests of the victim (whose family has publicly made statements worrying for her safety),” the plea stated.
In response, the Gujarat government told the top court in October that the Union Home Ministry had approved the premature release of the 11 convicts who were facing life imprisonment.
Legal pundits also pointed out that the men were let out under the 1992 remission policy which allowed release of criminals after they had spent 14 years in jail – the term for a life imprisonment. This was the law prevalent when these men were convicted in 2008, they said.
A more recent remission policy – that of 2014 – however has banned the release of rape and murder convicts even if they have spent 14 years in prison.
Bano was gang-raped, and according to the prosecution in her case, fourteen members of her family — including her three-year-old daughter Saleha — were killed by a mob in Gujarat’s Randhikpur village, when they were fleeing during the Godhra riots in March 2002. Bano was 19 and five months pregnant at the time.