Bilkis Bano Case: 134 Former Civil Servants Write to CJI, Urge SC to Rescind Remission Order of Convicts
Image for representational purpose. Credit: The Hindu
Appealing to the Supreme Court to rectify the “glaring deviations from the established law” and “departure from government policy and propriety”, a group of 134 former civil servants have written to the Chief Justice of India to rescind the order of remission pertaining to the 11 persons convicted of gang rape and murder in the Bilkis Bano case.
The 11 men sentenced to life imprisonment in the case had walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on Monday, August 15, after the Gujarat government approved their release under its remission policy. The convicts were later garlanded by groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).
The men had gang-raped Bano in a village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002, during the riots in Gujarat. She was 19 and pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family were also killed in the violence, including her three-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on the ground by the perpetrators.
The civil servants who have come together under the title ‘Constitutional Conduct Group’ wrote in an open letter: “The story of Bilkis Bano is, as you know, a story of immense courage and persistence. […] It is a remarkable story of courage that this battered and bruised young woman, hiding from her tormentors, managed to seek justice from the courts.”
“So influential were the persons accused of this ghastly crime and so politically fraught was the issue that not only has the case to be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) instead of the Gujarat police, but it also had to be transferred from Gujarat to a special CBI court in Mumbai, to ensure a fair trial, because of the death threats received by Bilkis Bano,” read the letter. The group also points to the reports claiming that Bilkis had to change homes 20 times over the years because of the threats to her life.
While listing the several errors that the government has made in passing the remission order of the 11 convicts, the letter said, “It is also shocking that five out of the 10 members of the Advisory Committee, which sanctioned the early release, belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the remaining are ex-officio members. This raises the important question of impartiality and independence of the decision, and vitiates both the process and the outcome.”
The civil servants opine in the letter that the “chilling impact” of this release will be on the safety of all women in India—along with Bilkis Bano, her family, and supporters—and especially those belonging to the minority and vulnerable communities.
The signatories to the letter include former civil servants Najeeb Jung, Wajahat Habibullah, Harsh Mander, Julio Ribeiro, Aruna Roy, G Balachandhran, Rachel Chatterjee, Nitin Desai, HS Gujral, and Meena Gupta, among others.
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