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While on Parole in 2020, Convict in Bilkis Bano Case was Booked for Outraging Woman’s Modesty

Mitesh Chimanlal Bhatt was booked under IPC Sections 354, 504 and 506 in June 2020
While on Parole in 2020, Convict in Bilkis Bano Case was Booked for Outraging Woman’s Modesty

Image Courtesy:  National Herald

New Delhi: The criticism of the central government's decision to approve the early release of 11 convicts sentenced to life for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her seven family members is getting harsher as more details of the affidavit submitted by the Gujarat government in the Supreme Court emerge. 

Reports have said that the men convicted of gang-raping Bilkis Bano and murdering 14 of her family members – who were recently released with the Union government’s nod – had spent nearly or over 1,000 days outside prison prior to their release and one of them was additionally accused of harassing a woman while out on parole.

According to a report published in LiveLaw, Mitesh Chimanlal Bhatt was booked for outraging the modesty of a woman while out on parole and charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) Sections 354 (outraging a woman’s modesty), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (2) (punishment for criminal intimidation) in June 2020.

The information was provided to the District Magistrate Dahod by the district superintendent of police when the government was considering the proposal to release the convicts including Mitesh Chimanlal Bhatt on remission after 14 years of imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano case. The document disclosing the same is part of the annexures in the government's reply to a petition challenging the premature release of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.

The Gujarat government informed the SC that it decided to release the 11 convicts on completion of their 14 years of the 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 the celebration of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Furlough, Leaves and Good Behaviour

Till May 25, Bhatt had "enjoyed 954 parole, furlough leaves" in the Bilkis Bano case. Even after registration of the First Information Report (FIR) in 2020, he was out of prison for 281 days. According to a report in the Indian Express, 10 of them were out of jail for more than 1,000 days each – on parole, furlough, temporary bail – and the 11th for 998 days before their release in the gang-rape case for “good behaviour” on August 15. 

The report further said that Gujarat Government’s affidavit submitted before the apex court shows that Ramesh Chandana (58) was out of jail for the maximum number of days. He was out for 1,576 days (over four years) – including on parole for 1,198 days and furlough for 378 days.

According to an explainer in the Indian Express, the period of furlough granted to a prisoner is treated as the remission of his sentence. It is seen as a matter of right for a prisoner, to be granted periodically irrespective of any reason. In contrast, parole is not seen as a matter of right, and is given to a prisoner for a specific reason, such as a death in the family or a wedding of a blood relative.

The 11 convicts got an average of 1,176 days of leave each – furlough, parole and temporary bail. 

Notably, Dahod superintendent of police, Hitesh Joysar, had asked for the opinion of Bano and her family with respect to the premature release of only one convict, Radheshyam Shah. They had “categorically said not to release him prematurely” and an entry to that effect was made in the station diary, the newspaper reported. In the case of 10 others, no such opinion was sought from the family, it said.

The top court will hear on November 29 the pleas challenging the remission of sentence and release of 11 convicts in the case following the state government’s “very bulky” reply.

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