[Bilkis Bano Case] 11 life imprisonment convicts released from Godhra sub-jail

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All the 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 post-Godhra Bilkis Bano gang rape case were released on Monday under the Gujarat government's remission policy.

All 11 life imprisonment convicts in the 2002 post-Godhra Bilkis Bano gang-rape case of Gujarat were released on Monday from the Godhra sub-jail, after a State government panel approved their application for remission of sentence, reports the Indian Express.

Following an in-camera trial in Mumbai, CBI special court judge U D Salvi convicted 13 accused, sentencing 11 to life imprisonment on the charge of gang rape and murder on January 21, 2008. The Bombay High Court upheld the conviction in May 2017.

Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana are among the 11 who have been released.

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis was gang-raped and her three-year-old daughter Saleha was among the 14 persons who were killed by a mob in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district. Bilkis was pregnant at the time of the incident.

After Bilkis approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Supreme Court ordered a CBI investigation into the matter.

In August 2004, after Bilkis alleged death threats from the accused, the Supreme Court directed the trial to be transferred from Gujarat to Maharashtra.

Raj Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), on Monday stated, "The 11 convicts have served a total of 14 years. A life sentence means a minimum of 14 years in prison, after which the convict can apply for remission. It is then up to the government to decide whether or not to consider the application. Prisoners are granted remission based on eligibility after the recommendation of the prison advisory committee and district legal authorities."

Kumar further stated that among the parameters considered are age, nature of the crime, behavior in prison, and so on, and after considering all of the factors, the convicts in the present case were also deemed eligible because they had served 14 years of their life sentence.

Notably, in 2019, the Supreme Court awarded Bilkis Rs. 50 lakh compensation, the first such order in a case relating to the 2002 riots.

"It is very clear that what should not have happened has happened, and the state must compensate," the Apex Court bench of then-CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta, and Sanjiv Khanna gang said.