Godhra riot rape victim Bilkis Bano challenges early release of convicts in Supreme Court

Godhra rape victim Bilkis Bano on Wednesday approached the Supreme Court against the premature release of 11 men who gang-raped and killed her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Bano filed a review petition against the May order of the Supreme Court, which allowed the Gujarat government to apply the 1992 exemption policy in the case.

All the eleven life convicts in the case were released on August 16 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its immunity policy, an official said. On January 21, 2008, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai sentenced eleven accused to life imprisonment for the gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family.

His conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court. These convicts had served in jail for more than 15 years, after which one of them approached the Supreme Court with a plea for their premature release. Panchmahal Collector Sujal Mayatra, who headed the panel, said the apex court had directed the Gujarat government to look into the issue of commutation of his sentence, following which the government constituted a committee.

“A committee constituted a few months ago took a unanimous decision in favor of acquittal of all the 11 convicts in the case. The recommendation was sent to the state government and yesterday we received orders for their release,” Mayatra said.

On February 27, 2002, in the violence that broke out after a coach of the Sabarmati Express was set on fire in which 59 ‘kar sevaks’ were killed, Bilkis Bano, then five months pregnant, returned to her village with her baby girl and 15 others. ran away from On 3 March, they took refuge in a field when a mob of 20–30 people armed with sickles, swords and sticks attacked them and Bilkis Bano was gang-raped, while seven members of her family were murdered. . Six other members managed to escape.

In view of the outrage over this incident, the Supreme Court had ordered a CBI inquiry. The accused in the case were arrested in 2004.

The trial began in Ahmedabad. However, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004, after Bilkis Bano expressed apprehensions that witnesses might be harmed and evidence collected by the CBI might be tampered with.

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