Minister Defends Release Of Bilkis Bano Convicts

Minister Defends Release Of Bilkis Bano Convicts


After an explosive revelation about the Centre and Gujarat fast-tracking the early release of 11 men convicted of raping Bilkis Bano and killing her family in the 2002 Gujarat riots, a Union Minister today defended the move while campaigning for elections in the state.

“When the government and the concerned people have taken the decision, I don’t find anything wrong in it as it is a process of law,” Prahlad Joshi, the Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, told NDTV. 

The minister said for convicts who have spent “quite some time” in prison, “there is a provision” for release.

“Accordingly, as per law, it is done,” Mr Joshi said.

Reacting to the outrage over the “law” for premature release applied to convicts sentenced for what the CBI called a “heinous, grave and serious” crime, the Minister echoed Gujarat’s “good behaviour” argument. 

“After having been in prison for some time, if their behaviour…there are so many incidents, I don’t want to get into that,” Mr Joshi said.

Hardik Patel, the Patidar leader who quit the Congress and joined the BJP in June, backed the convicts’ release.

“The state government has the authority to release prisoners for good behaviour. I believe this is being deliberately projected wrongly. Of course, any criminal deserves punishment for their deeds,” Hardik Patel said. 

A third BJP leader campaigning with them, Alpesh Thakore, was the exception as he said it was unacceptable to free the convicts guilty of gang-rape and murder. 

“I don’t accept it. Even good behaviour is not enough, for releasing such men. It is shameful that they were given sweets when they walked out of jail,” Mr Thakore told NDTV.

The Gujarat government has told the Supreme Court that the men were released as they had been in jail for 14 years; their behaviour was found to be “good”; and the centre had approved it.

The Union Home Ministry approved the release of the convicts within two weeks of Gujarat requesting it. Gujarat had sought the Centre’s approval on June 28. The one-page sign-off came swiftly, on July 11.
The convicts walked free on August 15 Independence Day amid nationwide outrage. Outside the prison in Gujarat, they were greeted like heroes with garlands and sweets.

Both the centre and Gujarat dismissed strong objections from the CBI and a special judge to freeing these men. The offence was “heinous, grave and serious” and deserved no leniency, the CBI had said last year.

A special judge had called it the “worse form of hate crime…committed only on the ground that the victims belong to a particular religion. In this case, even minor children were not spared.”


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