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Bilkis Bano case: Convicts set free with MHA’s approval, despite opposition from CBI and Special Court

Gujarat government affidavit to Supreme Court reveals the Centre approved the release within two weeks

Sabrangindia 18 Oct 2022

bilkis bano

A submission made by the Gujarat government before the Supreme Court has revealed that it was the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that enabled the release of eleven men convicted in the Bilkis Bano case. The approval for their release was granted despite opposition from a special court and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

According to documents submitted before the court, the premature release application was first filed on February 23, 2021. In a letter dated March 11, 2021, the CBI, the Superintendent of Police, and the SCB, Mumbai advised against the release of the convicts. According to NDTV, the CBI said that the crime committed by the accused was "heinous, grave and serious" and so the "accused cannot be released prematurely and no leniency can be given to him".

Thereafter, in a letter dated March 22, 2021, Special Judge (CBI), also opposed the release. NDTV quoted an excerpt from the letter by Special Judge Anand L Yawalkar wrote to the Superintendent of the Godhra sub-jail: “In this case all convicted accused were found guilty for rape and murder of innocent people. That the accused had no enmity or any relation with the victim. The crime was committed only on the ground that the victims belongs to a particular religion. In this case even minor children and pregnant woman were not spared. This is worst form of hate crime and crime against the humanity.”

However, in a letter dated March 7, 2022, the Superintendent of Police Dahod, Gujarat, said that he had no objection to the premature release of the prisoners. The Collector and District Magistrate of Dahod also said he had no objection in another letter dated March 7, 2022. The Jail Superintendent of Godhra Sub-Jail also said he had no objection.

On May 26, 2022, the Jail Advisory Committee unanimously recommended the premature release of the convicts. Following this the Additional Director General of Police, Prisons and Correctional Administration, Ahmedabad, wrote to the Gujarat Home Department on June 9, saying he too had no objection to the release. The Gujarat Home Department then wrote to the MHA on June 28, 2022, recommending the release and sought approval/suitable orders for the same.

Just two weeks later, on July 11, the MHA wrote back to the Gujarat Home Department approving the release.  

LiveLaw shared a copy of the Gujarat Government’s affidavit on Twitter:

 

 

Brief background of the case

During the communal violence that engulfed Gujarat in February- March 2002, in a particularly brutal attack, 14 members of Bilkis Bano’s family were killed, including Bano’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on a rock! Bano, who was over five months pregnant, was gang raped.

After Bano approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Supreme Court ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The accused were arrested in 2004 and the trial originally began in Ahmedabad. However, Bano expressed concerns about witness intimidation and evidence tampering and the case was transferred to Mumbai in August 2004. After a tortuous legal journey, the men were convicted by a special CBI court in January 2008. In 2017, the High Court upheld their conviction.

After completing 14 years behind bars, Radheshyam Shah moved court for sentence remission. But the Gujarat High Court dismissed his plea stating the appropriate government to consider his plea under sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was Maharashtra and not Gujarat. Then, Shah moved Supreme Court which ruled in May that Gujarat was the appropriate state to examine his plea.

A committee was formed to look into the plea for remission and according to Panchmahals collector Sujal Mayatra it “took a unanimous decision in favour of remission of all the 11 convicts in the case.”

The convicts who were granted remission are: Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Mitesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Pradeep Mordhiya, and Ramesh Chandana. They are all residents of Randhikpur village located in Daud district of Gujarat. They were all known to Bilkis Bano and her family; while some were neighbours, others did business with her family. On August 15, 2022, as India was celebrating her 75th Independence Day, these convicts walked out of jail and were felicitated with garlands by their family and friends.

Outrage followed and many legal luminaries and civil society members also wondered how remission was granted for serious crimes like gang rape and mass murder. Justice UD Salvi, the judge who had convicted the eleven men, told Bar and Bench, “A very bad precedent has been set. This is wrong, I would say. Now, convicts in other gang rape cases would seek similar reliefs.” Then nearly 9,000 people from different walks of life in Mumbai participated in a signature campaign urging the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to reverse the decision to grant remissions.

Then an NDTV investigation revealed that at least five people on the Advisory Committee that recommended the release are allegedly connected to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Citing an official document that lists the members of the advisory committee, NDTV said it included two BJP MLAs, a member of the BJP state executive committee and two others, who are also linked to the party.

Meanwhile, according to a report by journalist Barkha Dutt’s digital news platform Mojo Story, some of the eleven convicts were not living in their homes after their release. Families of some convicts said they were on pilgrimage, but none provided details of their whereabouts of when they would return. This is significant in light of the current hearings before the Supreme Court. If the court overturns the decision to grant remission, the men need to be traceable so that they can be re-imprisoned.

Related:

Bilkis Bano case: SC orders copies of impleading petition to be given to convicts, State of Gujarat

Nearly 9,000 people participate in signature campaign to demand justice for Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano case: Convicts’ whereabouts unknown even as SC prepares to hear petitions challenging remission of sentences

Bilkis Bano case: SC issues notice in petition challenging remission of convicts’ sentences

Bilkis Bano case: Remission of convicts’ sentences challenged before SC

Bilkis Bano case: NHRC to discuss release of convicts?

A very bad precedent has been set: Judge who convicted 11 men in Bilkis Bano case

Over 6,000 Citizens Urge SC to Revoke Remission of Convicts in Bilkis Bano Case

Bereft of words, still numb: Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano case: Eleven people convicted of gang rape and murder freed

Bilkis Bano case: Convicts set free with MHA’s approval, despite opposition from CBI and Special Court

Gujarat government affidavit to Supreme Court reveals the Centre approved the release within two weeks

bilkis bano

A submission made by the Gujarat government before the Supreme Court has revealed that it was the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that enabled the release of eleven men convicted in the Bilkis Bano case. The approval for their release was granted despite opposition from a special court and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

According to documents submitted before the court, the premature release application was first filed on February 23, 2021. In a letter dated March 11, 2021, the CBI, the Superintendent of Police, and the SCB, Mumbai advised against the release of the convicts. According to NDTV, the CBI said that the crime committed by the accused was "heinous, grave and serious" and so the "accused cannot be released prematurely and no leniency can be given to him".

Thereafter, in a letter dated March 22, 2021, Special Judge (CBI), also opposed the release. NDTV quoted an excerpt from the letter by Special Judge Anand L Yawalkar wrote to the Superintendent of the Godhra sub-jail: “In this case all convicted accused were found guilty for rape and murder of innocent people. That the accused had no enmity or any relation with the victim. The crime was committed only on the ground that the victims belongs to a particular religion. In this case even minor children and pregnant woman were not spared. This is worst form of hate crime and crime against the humanity.”

However, in a letter dated March 7, 2022, the Superintendent of Police Dahod, Gujarat, said that he had no objection to the premature release of the prisoners. The Collector and District Magistrate of Dahod also said he had no objection in another letter dated March 7, 2022. The Jail Superintendent of Godhra Sub-Jail also said he had no objection.

On May 26, 2022, the Jail Advisory Committee unanimously recommended the premature release of the convicts. Following this the Additional Director General of Police, Prisons and Correctional Administration, Ahmedabad, wrote to the Gujarat Home Department on June 9, saying he too had no objection to the release. The Gujarat Home Department then wrote to the MHA on June 28, 2022, recommending the release and sought approval/suitable orders for the same.

Just two weeks later, on July 11, the MHA wrote back to the Gujarat Home Department approving the release.  

LiveLaw shared a copy of the Gujarat Government’s affidavit on Twitter:

 

 

Brief background of the case

During the communal violence that engulfed Gujarat in February- March 2002, in a particularly brutal attack, 14 members of Bilkis Bano’s family were killed, including Bano’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on a rock! Bano, who was over five months pregnant, was gang raped.

After Bano approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Supreme Court ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The accused were arrested in 2004 and the trial originally began in Ahmedabad. However, Bano expressed concerns about witness intimidation and evidence tampering and the case was transferred to Mumbai in August 2004. After a tortuous legal journey, the men were convicted by a special CBI court in January 2008. In 2017, the High Court upheld their conviction.

After completing 14 years behind bars, Radheshyam Shah moved court for sentence remission. But the Gujarat High Court dismissed his plea stating the appropriate government to consider his plea under sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was Maharashtra and not Gujarat. Then, Shah moved Supreme Court which ruled in May that Gujarat was the appropriate state to examine his plea.

A committee was formed to look into the plea for remission and according to Panchmahals collector Sujal Mayatra it “took a unanimous decision in favour of remission of all the 11 convicts in the case.”

The convicts who were granted remission are: Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Mitesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Pradeep Mordhiya, and Ramesh Chandana. They are all residents of Randhikpur village located in Daud district of Gujarat. They were all known to Bilkis Bano and her family; while some were neighbours, others did business with her family. On August 15, 2022, as India was celebrating her 75th Independence Day, these convicts walked out of jail and were felicitated with garlands by their family and friends.

Outrage followed and many legal luminaries and civil society members also wondered how remission was granted for serious crimes like gang rape and mass murder. Justice UD Salvi, the judge who had convicted the eleven men, told Bar and Bench, “A very bad precedent has been set. This is wrong, I would say. Now, convicts in other gang rape cases would seek similar reliefs.” Then nearly 9,000 people from different walks of life in Mumbai participated in a signature campaign urging the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to reverse the decision to grant remissions.

Then an NDTV investigation revealed that at least five people on the Advisory Committee that recommended the release are allegedly connected to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Citing an official document that lists the members of the advisory committee, NDTV said it included two BJP MLAs, a member of the BJP state executive committee and two others, who are also linked to the party.

Meanwhile, according to a report by journalist Barkha Dutt’s digital news platform Mojo Story, some of the eleven convicts were not living in their homes after their release. Families of some convicts said they were on pilgrimage, but none provided details of their whereabouts of when they would return. This is significant in light of the current hearings before the Supreme Court. If the court overturns the decision to grant remission, the men need to be traceable so that they can be re-imprisoned.

Related:

Bilkis Bano case: SC orders copies of impleading petition to be given to convicts, State of Gujarat

Nearly 9,000 people participate in signature campaign to demand justice for Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano case: Convicts’ whereabouts unknown even as SC prepares to hear petitions challenging remission of sentences

Bilkis Bano case: SC issues notice in petition challenging remission of convicts’ sentences

Bilkis Bano case: Remission of convicts’ sentences challenged before SC

Bilkis Bano case: NHRC to discuss release of convicts?

A very bad precedent has been set: Judge who convicted 11 men in Bilkis Bano case

Over 6,000 Citizens Urge SC to Revoke Remission of Convicts in Bilkis Bano Case

Bereft of words, still numb: Bilkis Bano

Bilkis Bano case: Eleven people convicted of gang rape and murder freed

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