All the 11 convicts sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 post-Godhra Bilkis Bano gang rape case walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on Monday. They were released under the Gujarat government’s remission policy.
The 11 accused — Radheshyam shah, Jaswant Chaturbhai Nai, Keshubhai Vadaniya, Bakabhai Vadaniya, Rajibhai Soni, Rameshbhai Chauhan, Shaileshbhai Bhatt, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Govindbhai Nai, Mitesh Bhatt, Pradip Modhiya were sentenced to life imprisonment on the charge of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family. A special CBI court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008 had sentenced the 11 eleven accused to life imprisonment, and the conviction was later upheld by the Bombay high Court.
India Today accessed the documents that showed the Gujarat government followed all rules, policies, legal options, and directions of Supreme Court while releasing the 11 convicts.
The Gujarat government relied on a 1992 policy following the direction of the Supreme Court on May 13. The state government’s revised policy of 2014, which bars out-of-turn release of prisoners convicted for rape and murder, would have made the accused ineligible for remission.
The 1992 circular pertained to the early release of the life convicts who on and after 18.12.1978 have served out 14 clear years imprisonment.
The exclusive document accessed by India Today states that a person has to complete 14 years completely in the jail and his conduct should be good. About the conduct of the accused, Inspector General Jail has to give recommendation. If both things are met, the Jail Advisory Committee recommends whether the person should be released or not. The JAC should have Jail Superintendent, District SP, District Magistrate and other Advisory Committee Board Members. The procedure can be initiated after the convict completes 14 years in jail.
Total number of years completed by all 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case are:
-Radheshyam Shah 15 years, 3 months and 3 days
-Jaswant Chaturbhai Nai – 15 years, 1 months and 21 days
-Kesharbhai Vahoniya – 15 years, 1 month and 15 days
-Bakabhai Vahoniya – 15 years, 7 months and 17 days
-Rajubhai Soni – 14 years, 7 months and 22 days
-Ramesh Chandna – 14 years and 9 days
-Shaileshbhai Bhatt – 15 years, 3 months and 15 days
-Bipinchandra Joshi – 15 years, 3 months and 29 days
-Govindbhai Nai – 15 years, 18 days
-Mitesh Bhatt – 15 years, 7 months
-Pradip Modiya – 14 years, 10 months and 8 days.
PROCEDURES FOLLOWED WHILE RELEASING THE 11 CONVICTS
According to sources, an eight-member Jail Advisory Committee was formed to give recommendations on the release of 11 convicts.
On May 13 2022, the Supreme Court ordered Gujarat government to look into the matter and gave it two months time.
The petition for release was filed by convict Radheshyam Shah. Earlier, there was dispute over where the application should be filed. The Gujarat High Court, where the application was filed by Radheshyam Shah, said that since the accused was convicted by Maharashtra state court, the Maharashtra government would be the competent authority to take decision on the release of convict.
However, the Supreme Court gave orders that as the convict has committed crime in the state of Gujarat, therefore the Gujarat government has to take a decision on release of convicts. The Gujarat government also took help of the legal department for the same before releasing the 11 convicts.
Findings of the 8-memberJAC found on the convicts:
– All the convicts had completed 14 years in jail, excluding parole and furlough
– The convicts behaved well in the jail and there were no complaint against them
-When out on parole and furlough, the convicts behaved well and did not commit any crime
-The convicts did not have any other FIR or criminal case against them
– The JAC also took into consideration age, health, and medical grounds of few convicts.
Sources in the JAC also said one of the convict also received four degrees in different fields from an open university. After going through all factors, the eight-member JAC gave unanimous recommendation to release all 11 convicts.
Highly placed sources in the Gujarat government also said that according to CrPC 435 like central government should be consulted by state government however in this matter as the orders came straight from Supreme Court there was no need to consult central government.
On August 14, the release orders for the 11 convicts from the Gujarat Government reached Godhra Sub Jail in the Bilkis Bano case. On August 15, all 11 convicts were released from jail.
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