On Saturday, more than 130 former public workers sent the Chief Justice of India (CJI) an open letter protesting the early release of 11 men who were incarcerated in connection with the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and pleading with him to reverse this “horrendously wrong judgement.”
They requested that the 11 people convicted of gangrape and murder be returned to prison to complete their life sentences and that the CJI revoke the Gujarat government’s decree of remission.
Among the 134 signatories to the letter, which was written under the auspices of the Constitutional Conduct Group, were former Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, former Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, former secretaries of state for foreign affairs Shivshankar Menon and Sujatha Singh, and former home secretary G K Pillai. “Like the overwhelming majority of people in our country, we are aghast at what happened in Gujarat a few days ago, on the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence,” it said.
They urged the CJI in a letter addressed under the auspices of the Constitutional Conduct Group to reverse the Gujarat government’s order of remission and send the 11 men, who had been found guilty of gangrape and murder, back to prison to complete their life sentences.
While escaping the riots in Gujarat in 2002, Bilkis Bano, then 21 years old and five months pregnant, was gangrapped. She lost seven people, including her three-year-old daughter. The 11 were given a life term in jail in 2008 after being found guilty of gangrape and murder by a special CBI court in Mumbai. The Supreme Court and Bombay High Court later upheld their conviction.
On Radheshyam Shah’s petition, the Supreme Court further ordered that the Gujarat government consider the appeal for premature release within two months and in accordance with its policy from 9 July 1992, the statement added.
“We are puzzled about why the Supreme Court saw the matter as so urgent that a decision had to be taken within two months, as also by the Supreme Court ordering that the case should be examined as per Gujarat’s 1992 remission policy and not its current one,” the letter said.