One of the convicts in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case during the 2002 Gujarat riots shared stage with ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmakers in Gujarat’s Dahod ahead of the Supreme Court’s hearing on Monday of petitions against the grant of remission to him and the 10 others, Hindustan Times reported.
A Supreme Court bench of justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna will hear petitions against the Gujarat government’s move to grant remission to the 11 convicts sentenced to life for gang raping Bano and murdering her family members during the riots.
Bano was 21 and five-month pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the violence during the riots. Her three-year-old daughter was among those killed.
BJP Member of Parliament (MP) Jasvantsinh Bhabhor shared photos on social media showing Shailesh Bhatt, one of the 11 convicts, at the launch of a water supply scheme in Dahod on Saturday. Shaileshbhai Bhabhor, a BJP member of the Gujarat assembly, was also present at the event.
In a tweet, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra referred to Bhatt’s presence at the event and said she wants India to reclaim her moral compass. “I want to see these monsters back in jail & the key thrown away. And I want this satanic government that applauds this travesty of justice voted out,” she tweeted.
Telangana’s ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi lawmaker K Kavitha said perpetrators of heinous crimes against women were being celebrated. “What have we become as a community that perpetrators of heinous crimes against women are being celebrated and given a platform while the victims plead for justice. India is watching!” she tweeted.
Shiromani Akali Dal MP and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said giving a place of pride and rehabilitating the rapist is reprehensible for any political party, especially the ruling BJP. “It signals to women that for this party politics is above women’s dignity & all talk of respect of women is nothing more than mere sloganeering,” she tweeted.
The convicts were garlanded and offered sweets after they walked out of jail on August 15. Ruling BJP lawmaker CK Raulji defended their release saying they are Brahmins with good values.
Justices Joseph and Nagarathna will on Monday take six petitions challenging the remission days after Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud on Wednesday last agreed to consider setting up the new bench as Bano’s lawyer pointed out that the matter was not heard since December.
One of the convicts, Radheshyam Shah, approached the Supreme Court seeking remission, arguing that he spent over 15 years in prison.
The Gujarat government filed an affidavit on October 17, saying the Union ministry of home affairs approved the early release of the convicts while the state took into account their “good behaviour” as a key reason to grant remission.
The affidavit said that the remission was granted despite objections from the trial court judge, who convicted the 11 men, and the Central Bureau of Investigation, which investigated the matter. The trial in the case was held in Mumbai following a 2004 Supreme Court order shifting it outside Gujarat.
In November, Bano approached the Supreme Court against the Gujarat government’s decision to allow the 11 men to walk out of jail. She said the gravity of the crime would disentitle the convicts from getting the benefit of an early release. She explained the delay in approaching the court saying she was shattered by the early release of all the convicts and could not regroup herself to be able to take a decision to challenge their release at the earliest.