‘Done as per law’: Union Minister Pralhad Joshi defends release of Bilkis Bano rape convicts

“I don’t find anything wrong in that because it is done as per the process of law,” Joshi was quoted as saying by NDTV. The minister asserted that “there is a provision” for release for all the convicts who have spent ample amount of time in prison.

“Accordingly, as per law, it is done,” Joshi said while campaigning in Gujarat which is gearing up for Assembly elections in December.

On Monday, the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that it decided to release the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case as they had “completed 14 years and above in prison… their behaviour was found to be good” and the Centre had also “conveyed (its) concurrence/ approval”.

In an affidavit filed in response to the petitions challenging the remission granted to the prisoners, the state also said that the “Superintendent of Police, CBI, Special Crime Branch, Mumbai” and “the Special Civil Judge (CBI), City Civil and Sessions Court, Greater Bombay”, had, in March last year, opposed the early release of the prisoners.

The 11 convicts of the Bilkis Bano case of the 2002 Gujarat riots, walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15, serving 18 years of their life term, after the Gujarat government granted them remission from the life sentencing. (Express photo)

Bilkis was gangraped and her three-year-old daughter Saleha was among 14 killed by a mob on March 3, 2002, in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district, during the post-Godhra riots. Bilkis was pregnant at the time.

On August 15, the Gujarat government released all the 11 convicts in the case, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008, citing a “unanimous” recommendation of the Jail Advisory Committee (JAC) to grant them remission on grounds of “good behaviour”.

Since then, the SC has issued notices to the state government on two petitions — one filed by CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul and academician Roop Rekha Verma, and the other by TMC MP Mahua Moitra — challenging their release.

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