All the 11 persons convicted in the 2002 Bilkis Bano rape case have walked out of the Godhra subjail under the Gujarat government’s remission policy. Senior state officials told news agencies that they considered remission as the convicts had completed 14 years imprisonment, which is the term given for a life sentence. A prisoner’s age, the nature of crime and behaviour in prison are factors that are taken into account before granting freedom.
During the Gujarat communal pogrom, Bilkis Bano, a young mother at the time, was gang-raped by the 11 men. They were also held responsible for killing her six-year-old daughter, reportedly “smashing” the girl to the ground, and hacking to death several members of Bano’s family. With her clothes torn off, Bano was left fatally bleeding on the road. A tribal community living nearby provided Bano shelter before a home guard took her to file a complaint.
The Bilkis Bano case began in 2004. It was the first riot case to be transferred out of Gujarat to Mumbai by the Supreme Court. Bano had alleged receiving death threats and the courts ruled that a trial out of Gujarat would ensure a fair trial. In 2008, a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court sentenced 11 of 13 accused to life imprisonment on charges of murder and gang rape. In 2017, the conviction was upheld by the Bombay High Court. The Supreme Court awarded Bano Rs.50 lakh as compensation in 2019. It was the first case and only case among the riot cases to see a monetary reward.
Bano faced several setbacks, including tampering with evidence when police constable Somabhai Gori blatantly removed the names of people she identified as her assailants from her complaint. He even tried to close the case.
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