Telangana minister KT Rama Rao on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take actions to overturn the Gujarat government’s decision to release 11 men convicted for life in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case.
The convicts were released from a Godhra jail on Monday after the Gujarat government approved their application to reduce their sentences under its remission policy.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Rao wrote that the decision was “nauseating to put it mildly” and that it was against a Union home ministry order on granting remission to prisoners.
He was referring to a letter written by the Centre to states and Union Territories detailing the process by which prisoners could be selected for special remission, under which they would be released on Independence Day.
Section 5 (vi) of the guidelines on granting such special remission states that such a relaxation cannot be given to those convicted of rape, among other crimes. Section 5 (ii) of the guidelines also states that special remission should not be granted to those sentenced to life imprisonment.
However, in April, the Supreme Court held that in the Bilkis Bano case, the Gujarat government’s premature release policy from July 1992 should be adhered to, as that was the one applicable on the date of conviction.
Rao also urged Modi to introduce amendments to the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure so that rapists do not get bail
“Strong legislations are the only way to ensure Judiciary can deliver swiftly and perform at its best,” wrote on Twitter.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said the release of the convicts showed the difference between words and deeds of the prime minister.
“Those who raped a five-month pregnant woman and murdered her three-year-old daughter were released during Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav,” he wrote on Twitter. “What message is being sent to the women of the country by those who peddle lies about women power?”
Bilkis Bano was gangraped on March 3, 2002, during the riots in Gujarat. She was 19 and pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter, were murdered by the rioters near Ahmedabad. One of the men snatched the girl from her mother’s arms and smashed her head on a rock.
More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the 2002 riots.
Lawyer Shobha Gupta, who has represented Bano in the past said that she has been in “acute shock” since she heard about the release of the 11 men, NDTV reported on Wednesday. She said that Bano’s family is still reeling from the news and “does not know how to react”.
Gupta said that her client had barely started to relax when she came to know about the release.
“She had stared to learn to live in peace without having to run from one place to another to hide herself, look for her security,” the lawyer said. “For her, the battle was over with the last order of the Supreme Court in 2019, when the compensation was granted and it was the highest ever compensation in a rape case in this country. She was learning to live her life peacefully.”