The Gujarat government approved their release under its remission policy on Monday, and all eleven of the prisoners who had been given life sentences for the 2002 post-Godhra Bilkis Bano gang rape and the death of seven members of her family, left the Godhra sub-jail, according to an official.
On January 21, 2008, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai sentenced the eleven defendants to life in prison on the charges of gang rape and the murder of seven Bilkis Bano family members.
The Bombay High Court eventually affirmed their conviction. One of these prisoners, who had already spent more than 15 years in prison, went before the Supreme Court and pleaded for an early release.
According to Panchmahals Collector Sujal Mayatra, who served as the panel’s chair, the Gujarat government constituted a committee after the state’s top court instructed it to investigate the possibility of commuting his sentence.
“All 11 of the case’s convicted parties were unanimously granted remission by a committee established a few months ago. The state government approved the suggestion, and yesterday we obtained the instructions for their release, “Mayatra” remarked.
When violence broke out after the fire of a Sabarmati Express coach on February 27, 2002, which resulted in the deaths of 59 “karsevaks,” Bilkis Bano—who was five months pregnant at the time—left her village with her child and 15 other people.
On March 3, they sought refuge in a field after being assaulted by a group of 20 to 30 individuals with sickles, swords, and clubs. Bilkis Bano was gang-raped while seven other family members perished in the attack. Six other members were able to flee.
The Supreme Court mandated a CBI investigation because of the anger surrounding the occurrence. The suspects in the case were taken into custody in 2004.
Ahmedabad saw the start of the trial. However, the Supreme Court shifted the case to Mumbai in August 2004 when Bilkis Bano voiced concerns that witnesses would be injured and the evidence gathered by the CBI tampered with.
On January 21, 2008, the special CBI court sentenced the eleven defendants to life in prison on the charges of gang rape and the murder of seven Bilkis Bano family members.
According to the Indian Penal Code, they were found guilty of planning to rape a pregnant lady, murder, and illegal assembly.
The special court acquitted seven other defendants for lack of evidence. During the trial, one of the defendants passed away.
The Bombay High Court overturned the acquittal of seven people in its 2018 judgment, affirming the conviction of the defendants.
In April 2019, the Gujarat government was ordered by the Supreme Court to provide Bilkis Bano with a residence, a job, and compensation totaling Rs 50 lakh.
Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana are the 11 prisoners who were given early releases.
Forgiveness of the punishment under sections 432 and 433 of the Code of Criminal Procedure was requested by one of them, Radheshyam Shah, in a petition to the Gujarat High Court.
The high court rejected his appeal, stating that Maharashtra, not Gujarat, was the “proper authority” to decide on his remission.
Shah subsequently filed a plea before the Supreme Court, claiming that as of April 1, 2022, he has served 15 years and 4 months in prison without being released.
The top court said in an order dated May 13 that the state of Gujarat should review Shah’s case since the crime was committed there.
Following the policy of July 9, 1992, the Gujarat government was ordered by the SC to evaluate the appeal for premature release and may make a decision within two months.