Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

Centre ‘Approved’ Release of Bilkis Bano Rapists Despite CBI Objection

Gujarat government’s affidavit in Supreme Court shows that the Union home ministry fast-tracked the release of the 11 rapists-murderers within two weeks of request from the state.

The Narendra Modi government approved the release of the 11 convicts who had raped a five-month pregnant Bilkis Bano and her mother and murdered 14 of her family members during the 2002 Godhra riots, the Gujarat government informed the Supreme Court (SC) in an affidavit on Monday.

Shockingly, the Centre fast-tracked the release of the rapists-murderers within two weeks of a request from the Gujarat government despite the opposition of the special prosecutor (SP), the Central Bureau Of Investigation (CBI), the Mumbai Special Crime Branch (SCB), the CBI Special Judge and the City Civil and Sessions Court, Greater Bombay, a document reveals.

The release of the 11 convicts had triggered a massive controversy with the Gujarat government not clarifying whether the Union home ministry had approved it.

According to current laws both at the Centre and in the state, there are restrictions on the premature release of rapists or lifers. However, this clause was absent in Gujarat’s 1992 remission policy on the basis of which an advisory committee had recommended the release of the men.

The Gujarat government made the submission in response to an SC notice on August 25 following a petition filed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Subhashini Ali, journalist Revati Laul and professor Roop Rekha Verma against the premature release of the convicts, LiveLaw reported. On September 9, the top court had issued another notice following similar petitions filed by Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha member Mahua Moitra and others.

The Gujarat government informed the SC that it decided to release the 11 convicts on completion of their 14 years sentence as their “behaviour was found to be good” and after the Centre’s approval.

The reply shows that the convicts were released on August 15 as per the policy dated 09.07.1992 and “as directed by” the top court and not “under the circular governing grant of remission to prisoners as part of celebration of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.


The home ministry approved the release of the 11 men through a letter within two weeks on July 11 after the Gujarat government sought its approval for their remission on June 28, the affidavit shows. The letter, accessed by NDTV, said that it gives “concurrence/approval of the Central government under Section 435 of CrPc for the premature release...”


All the convict prisoners have completed 14+ years in the prison under life imprisonment and opinions of the concerned authorities have been obtained as per the policy of 09.07.1992 and submitted to the ministry of home affairs, government of India vide letter dated 28/06/2022 and sought the approval/suitable orders of the government of India. The government of India conveyed the concurrence/approval of the Central government under Section 435 of the CrPC for premature release of 11 prisoners vide letter dated 11.07.2022,” the state government said in the affidavit.

The affidavit also reveals that though the SP, the CBI, SCB, the Special Judge, City Civil and Sessions Court, opposed the proposal for premature release of the convicts, all the authorities in Gujarat did not object.

However, the premature release of prisoner Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah alias Lala Vakil was also objected to by Dahod’s superintendent of police and district magistrate and Ahmedabad’s additional director general of police (prisons and correctional administration).


In a letter addressed to the superintendent of Godhra sub-jail last year, the CBI had said that the 11 men “cannot be released prematurely and no leniency may be given” because the offence committed was “heinous, grave and serious”.


Even the Special Judge opposing their early release had observed: “The crime was committed only on the ground that the victims belong to a particular religion. In this case, even minor children were not spared.”

The state government also said in the affidavit that the plea against the release of the 11 convicts is “neither maintainable in law nor tenable on facts” and argued that the petitioners have no locus to challenge the remission orders, according to LiveLaw.

It is well established that a PIL is not maintainable in a criminal matter. The petitioner is in no way connected to the proceedings which either convicted the accused in question nor with the proceedings which culminated in grant of remission to the convicts,” the state home department said in its reply.

The Gujarat government alleged that the petition was filed “at the instance of a mere busybody which has political machinations”.

A third-party stranger either under the provisions of the Code or under any other statute is precluded to question the correctness of grant or refusal of ‘sanction for prosecution’ or the conviction and sentence imposed by the court after a regular trial. Similarly, a third-party stranger is precluded from questioning a remission order passed by the state government which is strictly in accordance with law,” the affidavit states.

Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Rahul Gandhi attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Centre’s approval. “From the Red Fort he talks about respect for women; but in reality, he stands with rapists,” he tweeted in Hindi. “The difference between the Prime Minister’s promise and intention is clear. PM has only cheated women.”

Famous public interest lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan tweeted that the Centre cleared the release of the rape and murder convicts despite the CBI’s and the Civil Judge’s objections.

Following the state government’s “very bulky” reply, the SC granted time to the petitioners to file a rejoinder to the counter-affidavits filed by the Gujarat government and the convicts and listed the matter for hearing on November 29.

According to Bar and Bench, the SC observed that the Gujarat’s government response was “very bulky”. “It is a very big reply ... So many judgments in a reply. Where is the factual statement? Where is the application of mind,” a Bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and CT Ravikumar orally remarked and directed the government to serve the state’s counter-affidavit on all parties.

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram