Centre Against Releasing Rapists, Yet 11 Walk Free In Gujarat’s Bilkis Bano Case
The release of 11 men who were serving life sentences for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family during the 2002 Gujarat riots suggests that the BJP-run governments in Gujarat and the Centre treat rape prisoners differently.
The Center released guidelines to states in June of this year, recommending a special release procedure for criminal defendants to commemorate “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” (75 years of Independence). The list of people who are not eligible for release under this policy includes rape convicts.
Technically, the Bilkis Bano case might not be covered by the Centre’s rules. Following the Supreme Court’s directives in May to take into account a remission request by one of the prisoners, the Gujarat government freed the 11 men who had been found guilty of planning to rape a pregnant lady and murder. Gujarat’s choice, however, appears to be at odds with the Centre’s steadfast resistance to the release of rape prisoners. On page 4, point 5(vi), of the Center’s rules, which are available on the Home Ministry website, this opposition is openly stated.
In reality, one of the criteria prohibits the release of anyone serving a life sentence, which would also have disqualified the 11 lifers in the Bilkis Bano case.
On March 3, 2002, in the Dahod district, Bilkis Bano, then 21 years old and five months pregnant, was raped and slain together with six other members of her family. Her toddler daughter was also slaughtered. They were hiding in fields in an effort to avoid the violence that broke out days after the Sabarmati Express train fire that claimed the lives of 59 “kar sevaks.”
The 11 suspects were given life sentences by a special court in Mumbai in 2008. Later, the Bombay High Court upheld it.
In addition to giving her a house and a job, the Gujarat government was even ordered by the Supreme Court to compensate her with 50 lakh in 2019. The prisoners are now free after three years. The prisoners were welcomed outside the Godhra jail with sweets upon their release on Monday.
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