This article on “Bilkis Bano Case: All You Need To Know” was written by Vridhi Rai, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
On the day when India was celebrating 76 years of independence and remembering the hard-earned freedom. On the other side, 11 male convicts in the Bilkis Bano case of gang rape and the murder of seven people including of three-year-old child in the infamous and horrific riots in Gujarat in 2002 were released from jail due to the 1992 remission policy of the Gujarat government. Isn’t it ironic when our honorable Prime Minister talked about Women’s Empowerment and the justice for a woman is put at stake?
This article gives a brief about Bilkis Bano, the backdrop of the case, the laws relating to remission policy and the reaction towards the decision, and the developments made after the case the decision.
Who is Bilkis Bano?
Bilkis Bano is a gang-rape survivor, who was pregnant when she was brutally attacked and assaulted in communal violence in the infamous riots in Gujarat in 2002, in which she lost fourteen members of her family who were killed by the mob.
What was the backdrop of the Bilkis Bano case?
The backdrop of the Bilkis Bano case:
- In February 2002, Bilkis Bano fled her village, Randhikpur in the Dahod district after the violence occurred in the State. The riots were an outcome of the incident that happened at the Godhara station in which the Sabarmati express train was put on fire leading to the deaths of pilgrims and the Karsevaks who arrived back from Ayodhya.
- Bilkis Bano was acquainted with her daughter Saleha and 15 other members of her family.
- In March 2002 upon reaching a village called Chhapparward, they were attacked by a mob in which those 11 accused were also there.
- She, her mother, and three other women were barbarously assaulted and raped. 14 members of her family were killed including her daughter.
- After the alleged incident, she regained consciousness after being in oblivion for three hours, she borrowed the clothes from an Adivasi woman.
- She filed a complaint against the perpetrators at the Limkheda police station. She was taken to the public hospital for a medical examination procedure.
- Her case was taken to NHRC(National Human Rights Commission) and to the apex court of India which further directed for CBI inquiry.
What did the CBI find in its inquiry?
CBI held in its inquiry that her version of the complaint that she filed at the police station was deformed and the material facts were vanquished. The CBI investigators disinterred the dead bodies of the people killed, the heads of dead bodies were severed, and concluded that the procedure of postmortem was carried out miserably to protect the convicts.
How did the accused were convicted in the Bilkis Bano case?
Bilkis Bano’s case was transferred from Gujarat to Mumbai due to a lot of pressure and due to the urge of having a free and fair trial. The accused were convicted by the Special Court in January 2008 and given a sentence of life imprisonment for the charges of raping a pregnant woman, unlawful assembly, and murder held under the sections of IPC. In 2019, the apex court SC directed the Gujarat government to give Rs. 50 lakhs as compensation. She refused to take the 5 lakhs as compensation and sought exemplary compensation.
How did the rape convicts manage to be set free from jail?
This happened because of the remission policy of the Gujarat government. The convict named Radheshyam Shah approached the highest court of appeal SC to consider the application for his release after serving 15 years of his life imprisonment sentence. The court told the Gujarat government to consider his application for early release. The government set up the panel and approved his application as per the old remission policy of 1992 which consists of no restrictions on the remission of a convicted person.
Thus, all the convicts were released from jail based on the fact that they have completed 14 years of imprisonment and by analyzing the age, nature of the act, and behavior in the prison. The government used the old remission policy because the decision of conviction was taken in 2008 by the Special Court and back then, the old remission policy for the prisoners was prevalent.
What are the laws of remission in India?
Articles 72 and 161 under the Indian Constitution describe the laws for remission that gives power to the President and the Governors to pardon, suspend, remit, or reduce the sentence of a convicted person.
While section 432 of the code of criminal procedure empowers the state government to set aside or reduce a sentence of a prisoner. But Section 433A of Crpc puts certain restrictions on the remission of convicted persons where the sentence of life of imprisonment or death penalty is imposed or where the death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment, they are not set free unless they completed 14 years of imprisonment. Prisoners are frequently released from jail on days of important events.
Prisoners like women, transgenders above the age of 50 years, men above the age of 60 years, and convicts suffering from a terminal illness are usually released.
The question raised on the early release of the rape convicts in the Bilkis Bano case?
- The legality of the old remission policy of 1992 used by the Gujarat government for releasing convicts was questioned as it is not effective and has no restrictions on the remission of convicts like the remission policy enacted in 2014 which has restrictions on the remission of the prisoners who are convicted for the crime investigated by an agency under the Delhi Establishment Law and the prisoners convicted for murder, rape and gang-rape. The loophole was made in the law.
- The question of the Gujarat government consulting the central government before deciding upon the remission of convicts was raised because of CBI’s involvement in the Bilkis Bano case, according to section 235(1)(a) of CrPC and section 435 of Crpc.
What is the reaction to the decision?
This decision of early release of rape convicts is not welcomed by the masses in our country. People have shown their rage towards the remission granted to the rapists obstructing the way of justice for Bilkis Bano and setting up the wrong precedent in society.
What is the recent development made in the Bilkis Bano case?
Due to the outrage among the people, various petitions and PILs have been filed against the order of the remission of the rape convicts at the highest court of appeal. The Supreme court heard a plea against the early release of the Rape convicts and issued notices to the Centre and the Gujarat government against the remission of the convicts.
Rape is one such heinous crime that not only harms the victim’s body but destroys the soul of her body. One incident traumatizes the life of the victim. There is a hike in rape cases every day. The decision like remission granted to such rapists not only sets a bad example in society but hampers the right of justice to the victim. The victims already need to fight a long legal battle to access justice.
There should be the stringent implementation of restrictions on the remission of the convicts held liable under the serious nature of crimes. Proper consultation with the central government by the state government before deciding upon the remission matters. Strict punishments should be given to the people involved in the heinous crimes to ensure security and justice for the victims.
- The facts and the backdrop of the case: The Hindu Explained: how did the Bilkis Bano’s convicts walk free? retrieved: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/explained-how-did-the-bilkis-bano-convicts-walk-free/article65818293.ece
- The study IQ ( video file) the Bilkis Bano gangrape case https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mb5mNwjdvo
- The laws of remission and the question raised: The Deshbhakt (video file) Bilkis Bano case
- The recent development in the case: The Economic times retrieved: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/
- The news18 Bilkis Bano case: recap of the case that shook India retrieved: www.news18.com