All 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment for the 2002 gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of seven members of her family walked out of the Godhra Sub-Jail after the Gujarat government approved their release under its policy of remission.
On January 21, 2008, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai sentenced the 11 convicts to life in prison on the charges of gang rape and the murder of seven Bilkis Bano family members. The Bombay high court later upheld their conviction.
One of these prisoners, who had already served more than 15 years in prison, appeared before the Supreme Court and pleaded for an early release.
Panchmahals Collector Sujal Mayatra, who headed the panel said that the apex court had directed the Gujarat government to look into the issue of remission of his sentence following which the government formed a committee.
“A committee formed a few months back took a unanimous decision in favour of remission of all the 11 convicts in the case. The recommendation was sent to the state government, and yesterday we received the orders for their release,” said Mayatra.
Human rights lawyer Shamshad Pathan stated on Monday night that many prisoners who have been convicted of crimes less serious than those involved in the Bilkis case are still being held without being released. According to Pathan, when a government makes such a judgement, the victim’s faith in the system is diminished.
When violence broke out after the fire of a Sabarmati Express coach on February 27, 2002, which resulted in the deaths of 59 “karsevaks,” Bilkis Bano—who was five months pregnant at the time—left her village with her toddler and 15 other people.
On March 3, they took shelter in a field after being attacked by a group of 20 to 30 individuals with sickles, swords, and sticks. Bilkis Bano was gang-raped while seven other members of her family killed in the attack. Six additional members were able to flee.
The Supreme Court mandated a CBI investigation due of the outrage surrounding the incident.