The 11 life sentences in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang rape case were released from the Godhra sub-prison under the Gujarat government’s diversion policy, the PTI news agency reported.
Bilkis Bano gangrape
“A committee formed a few months ago made a unanimous decision in favour of the referral of all 11 convicted in the case. The recommendation was sent to the state government and yesterday we received the orders for his release,” said Sujal Mayatra, collector of Panchmahals.
On January 21, 2008, a special CBI court in Mumbai sentenced the 11 defendants to life in prison on the charge of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family. The Bombay High Court had delayed his sentence.
These convicts had served more than 15 years in prison, after which one of them approached the Supreme Court to ask for their premature release.
The Supreme Court had ordered the Gujarat government to investigate the issue of his sentence remission, after which the government formed a committee, said Panchmahals collector Sujal Mayatra, who headed the panel.
Bilkis Bano had survived the massacre and his case was one of the major cases related to the 2002 riots and his investigation was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while the trial was transferred from Gujarat to Maharashtra at the behest of the Supreme Court.
The trial court’s conviction was also upheld by the Bombay High Court.
“The state government had formed a commission a few months ago to decide on the referral of those convicted in the case. The committee made the unanimous decision in favour of the remission of the 11 convicts,” a government official said.
He said that the government had accepted the committee’s recommendation and consequently the convicts were released from jail.
The Bilkis Bano Gangrape incident was one of the most horrific incidents that took place during the riots. For 15 years, Bilkis fought for justice with the help of an NGO, the local police and the CBI. The names of the convicts 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.
Timeline of horrific case
March 3, 2002: A fierce mob stormed Bilkis Bano’s family in Ahmedabad, killing seven members of his family. Bilkis, a 19-year-old woman who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang-raped while six other members of her family managed to flee.
2002-2003: Local police officers repeatedly refused to register her case, citing lack of evidence, and threatened legal action if she continued the matter. Bilkis then approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and entered a guilty plea to the Supreme Court in December 2003. The Supreme Court then ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the case.
January 2004: After gathering all available evidence against each of the suspects identified in Bilkis’s complaint, the CBI arrested them all.
August 2004: After Bilkis raised her concerns about the possibility of evidence tampering and potential harm to witnesses, the High Court decided to move the trial from Ahmedabad to Bombay.
January 2008: 13 people were found guilty by the trial court of raping Bilkis, participating in a criminal conspiracy, and murder, with 11 of them receiving life sentences. The defendant subsequently challenged the conviction in the High Court, requesting that the trial court’s decision be reversed.
July 2011: The CBI petitioned the Bombay High Court asking for the convicts to be hanged.
July 15, 2016: Appeals filed by 11 people charged with crimes in the 2002 gang rape case were heard by the Bombay High Court.
September 2016 – The convict’s lawyer requested that a number of witnesses in the case be re-examined, but the Bombay HC refused his request.
Oct 2016 – Bombay High Court tribunal ruled that the application cannot be admitted under the Code of Criminal Procedure, but as the court mentioned Bilkis can make her application an appeal.
December 2016 – Bombay High Court reserved judgment on an appeal by 11 prisoners who were sentenced to life imprisonment. In addition, the HC reserved judgment on a CBI appeal seeking the death penalty for three convicted criminals, describing it as one of the rarest of situations.
May 2017: Bombay HC confirmed the life sentences of the 11 convicts.
May 15, 2022: One of these prisoners, who had already served more than 15 years in prison, went before the Supreme Court and asked for an early release.
Aug 15, 2022: The eleven convicts were released from Godhra sub-jail under the Gujarat government diversion policy.
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