Devendra Fadnavis, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, stated on Tuesday that although the Supreme Court’s decision to release the defendants in the 2002 Bilkis Bano case of Gujarat was correct, there can be no justification for such a deed.
He said there was no justification for bringing up the Bilkis Bano matter in the House in response to a discussion in the Legislative Council about an event in the Bhandara district where a 35-year-old lady was allegedly sexually assaulted by three people.
“The accused have been freed after completing nearly 20 years…14 years in jail. The release has been done after a Supreme Court order. But it is wrong if any accused is felicitated and welcomed. An accused is an accused and there can be no justification for this (act),” said Mr Fadnavis, who is also the home minister.
After the BJP government in Gujarat permitted their early release under its remission policy on August 15, all 11 of the defendants who had been given life sentences in the case of Bilkis Bano’s gang rape and the murder of her seven family members during the 2002 communal riots walked out of the Godhra sub-jail.
After being released from prison, they were greeted with garlands. The release of the convicts and the reception given to them drew criticism for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose MLAs were on the committee constituted by the Gujarat government to consider remissions.
On January 21, 2008, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Mumbai sentenced the eleven defendants to life in prison on the accusation of gang rape and the murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family, a riot survivor. The Bombay High Court later upheld their conviction. One of these prisoners, who had already served more than 15 years in prison, went before the Supreme Court and pleaded for an early release.