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'I have wept tears of relief,' Bilkis Bano says after SC cancels Gujarat govt's decision to release 11 convicts
Bilkis Bano

'I have wept tears of relief,' Bilkis Bano says after SC cancels Gujarat govt's decision to release 11 convicts

| @indiablooms | 09 Jan 2024, 12:12 am

New Delhi/IBNS: Bilkis Bano, the survivor of one of the most horrific crimes during the 2002 communal riots, Monday said it is "truly the New Year" for her after the Supreme Court overturned the Gujarat government's decision to release 11 convicts who rape of Bilkis Bano and murdered seven of her family the 11 men responsible for killing her family and gangraping her will soon be back behind the bars.

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court ruled that convicts, who got released last year for "good behaviour", must return to jail.

The convicts have to surrender within two weeks, the apex court said, declaring that the exercise of power by the Gujarat government was "without application of mind".

The top court said the Gujarat government is not competent to grant remission to the convicts.

"I have wept tears of relief. I have smiled for the first time in over a year and half. I have hugged my children. It feels like a stone the size of a mountain has been lifted from my chest, and I can breathe again," she said in a statement issued through her lawyer Shobha Gupta.

This is what justice feels like. I thank the honourable Supreme Court of India for giving me, my children and women everywhere, this vindication and hope in the promise of equal justice for all," she said.

"A year and half ago, on August 15, 2022, when those who had destroyed my family and terrorised my very existence, were given an early release, I simply collapsed," she said.

To those who stood with her during that period, "my gratitude for your precious solidarity and strength," she said. "You gave me the will to struggle, to rescue the idea of justice not just for me, but for every woman in India. I thank you," Bilkis Bano said.

"It was as if a decision was made first and process applied later, and if i dare say, unmindfully," remarked Shobha Gupta, who has been Bilkis Bano's legal counsel for decades.

She also questioned the "good behaviour" of the men that was cited for their release. "What was the reflection of the good behaviour? Nothing was reflecting," she said.

Bano was 21 years old and was five months pregnant when she was gang raped.

The 11 convicts allegedly killed seven members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The state government and the convicts, however, argued that the remission was considered after the May 2022 judgment by the Supreme Court, which directed the Gujarat government to decide the remission of one of the convicts, Radheshyam Bhagwandas Shah, under the 1992 remission plea within two months.

This triggered action by the state government to consider the release of all convicts under the 1992 policy, the state submitted.

The state took the opinion of the presiding judge of Godhra court on June 3, 2022, and formed a jail advisory committee, which considered the opinion of the local police, jail superintendent, and the trial court judge to recommend the release of the prisoners on August 10, 2022.

A public interest litigation was filed by former Communist Party of India MP Subhashini Ali and others challenging the remission. Later, now expelled Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra also joined in challenging the remission.

Bilkis Bano told the apex court that she was not informed about the remission and came to know about it from the media.

She approached the top court in November 2022 against the remission.

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