Union minister defends Centre’s approval to release Bilkis Bano case convicts, says done as per law
On Monday, the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that the men were freed from jail as they had served 14 years and their behaviour was good.
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi on Tuesday defended the Centre’s approval to release 11 men convicted and sentenced to life in prison in the Bilkis Bano case, reported NDTV.
“I don’t find anything wrong in it as it is done as a process of the law,” Joshi told the news channel amid outrage.
The minister said there were many aspects that led to the remission of the convicts’ sentences, including their behaviour, but stopped short of explaining what the other reasons are. “I don’t want to go into the details,” he said.
Joshi added that the Union government was not singularly responsible for the decision to release the convicts.
The 11 men had gangraped Bano in a village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002, during the riots in Gujarat. She was 19 and pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family were also killed in the violence, including her three-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on the ground by the perpetrators.
On August 15, the convicts were released from a Godhra jail after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Gujarat government approved their application under its remission policy. On the same day, the convicts were greeted with sweets by their relatives after their release. A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh felicitated them as well.
On Monday, the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court in an affidavit that the Union home ministry had approved the remission of the life-term sentences of the convicts as they had been in jail for 14 years and their behaviour was found to be good.
The government also clarified that the convicts were not released “under a circular governing grant of remission to prisoners as part of the celebration of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav”.
The affidavit said that the Gujarat government considered the opinions of the inspector general of prisons, Gujarat state jail superintendent, jail advisory committee, Dahod district magistrate and police superintendent, Central Bureau of Investigation, Special Crime Branch (Mumbai) and a Mumbai special Central Bureau of Investigation court besides the home ministry.
The home ministry had approved the release of the convicts on June 28, within two weeks of Gujarat requesting on July 11.
Opposing the release, the Central Bureau of Investigation judge had noted the men had committed the crime only on the ground that the victims were of a “particular religion”.
“In this case, even minor children and pregnant women were not spared,” Judge Anand L Yawalkar told the Gujarat government while seeking his opinion of the convicts’ release. “This is the worst form of hate crime and crime against humanity.”
On Monday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Modi of supporting rapists after it emerged that his government approved the release of the men.