Bilkis Bano at a press conference. Image Courtesy: National Herald

Eleven convicts who were serving life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case from the 2002 Gujarat riots were set free from the Godhra sub-jail on Monday, August 15, after the Gujarat government permitted their release under its remission policy. As per senior officials, the remission of sentence for the 11 convicts was approved by a state government panel.

Gujarat Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar told The Indian Express that the remission application was considered “due to the completion of 14 years” in jail and other factors “such as age, nature of the crime, behaviour in prison,” etc.

The application was moved by one of the convicts, Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah, who had approached the Supreme Court in May 2022 with a writ plea. The Supreme Court then directed the Gujarat government to consider his application for premature release under a 1992 policy which was existing at the time of conviction.

The Bilkin Bano gangrape case occurred in 2002 when on March 3, 19-year-old Bilkis Bano and her family were trying to escape a mob on a truck in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district during the Gujarat Riots. Bilkis Bano, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gangraped after an armed mob attacked the truck. The mob killed 14 members of her family, including her 2-year-old daughter, mother and cousin.

When Bilkis Bano approached the local police station to file a case, she was threatened with dire consequences. She later petitioned the Supreme Court, which directed a CBI probe into the matter. The Supreme Court moved the case from Gujarat to Maharashtra after Bilkis Bano and her family complained of receiving death threats.

In January 2008, a Mumbai court sentenced 11 out of 19 accused to life imprisonment for gangrape and murder. The Bombay High Court upheld the conviction in May 2017. Bilkis Bano was awarded compensation of Rs 50 lakh by the Supreme Court in 2019.

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