Godhra- All the eleven convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 post-Godhra Bilkis Bano gang rape case on Monday walked out of the Godhra sub-jail after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy, an official said.
A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008, sentenced the eleven accused to life imprisonment on the charge of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court.
These convicts had served more than 15 years in jail after which one of them approached the Supreme Court with a plea for his premature release.
The apex court had directed the Gujarat government to look into the issue of remission of his sentence following which the government formed a committee, said Panchmahals Collector Sujal Mayatra, who headed the panel.
“A committee formed a few months back took a unanimous decision in favour of remission of all the 11 convicts in the case. The recommendation was sent to the state government, and yesterday we received the orders for their release,” said Mayatra.
Bilkis Bano’s family members were attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village in Limkheda taluka of the Dahod district during the post-Godhra riots on March 3, 2002.
Bilkis Bano, who was five months pregnant at that time, was gang-raped and seven members of her family were killed. Six other members managed to run away, the court was told.
The accused in the case were arrested in 2004.
The trial began in Ahmedabad. However, after Bilkis Bano expressed apprehensions that witnesses could be harmed and the evidence collected by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) tampered with, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.
The special CBI court on January 21, 2008, sentenced the eleven accused to life imprisonment on the charge of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family.
In its 2018 order upholding the conviction of the accused persons, the Bombay High Court also set aside the acquittal of seven persons in the case.
The 11 convicts who were granted premature release are Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana.
One of them, Radheshyam Shah, had approached the Gujarat High Court seeking remission of the sentence under sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The high court dismissed his plea while observing that the “appropriate government” to decide about his remission is Maharashtra and not Gujarat.
Shah then filed a plea in the Supreme Court pleading that he had been in jail for 15 years and 4 months without remission as of April 1, 2022.
In its order dated May 13, the top court stated that since the crime was committed in Gujarat, the state of Gujarat was the appropriate government to examine Shah’s application.
The SC directed the Gujarat government to consider the application for premature release in terms of the policy dated July 9, 1992 and may decide within two months.