Today, about 134 former civil servants wrote an open letter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) UU Lalit (took charge of office today morning only) against the release of 11 men prematurely who were jailed for the gangrape case of Bilkis Bano. The letter requests him to rectify this “horrendously wrong decision”.
The letter asks CJI to revoke the order under the remission policy which was passed by the Gujarat government and send the 11 convicts back to jail to serve out their life sentence for crime they committted.
The letter talk sof the spirit of humanity and says like the overwhelming majority of people in our country, we are aghast at what happened in Gujarat a few days ago, on the eve of 75th anniversary of India’s Independence.
The 134 signitories who wrote under the aegis of the Constitutional Conduct Group includes former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung, Former Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, Former foreign secretaries Shivshankar Menon and Sujatha Singh along with former Home Secretary GK Pillai.
On August 25, the Supreme Court has already issued a notice to the Centre and the Gujarat government on a plea challenging the release of the 11 convicts and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
The Nation has been outraged and deeply stressed by the way the remission policy has worked for rape accused .The former civil servants said that they have penned their thoughts because they believe that it is only the Supreme Court which has the prime jurisdiction, and the responsibility, to rectify this horrendously wrong decision.
During the 2002 Gujarat Riots, Bilkis Bano was a 21 years old who was expecting a baby within a few months when she was gangraped as she was trying to flee with her family which also had her 3 year old daughter when the riots broke out after the Godhra train burning in 2002.
It was not before 2008, (six years in waiting) that finally, a special CBI court in Mumbai sentenced the 11 convicts life imprisonment on charges of gangrape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family. The conviction was upheld by Supreme Court and Bombay court also.
The letter says that this case is unlike any other because only the rapists and murderers punished, but no action was taken against the policemen and doctors who tried to tamper with evidnce.
One of the accused Radheshyam Shah, who had served period of 15 years in jail approached the Apex Court for a premature release.
The plea was also submitted to Gujarat High COurt prior to moving the Top court, but was dismissed when the court observed that the “appropriate government” to decide the case was that of Maharashtra and not Gujarat.
The Supreme Court, in its order mentioned that the plea by on Radheshyam Shah for premature release be considered by the Gujarat government within two months, and in terms of its policy dated 9 July 1992, it said.
The letter speaks of the confusion that what was so urgent that Supreme Court wanted decision to be taken within two months.
Also a surprising fact the letter mentions is why did the Supreme Court order that the case should be examined as per Gujarat’s 1992 remission policy and not its current one.
The letter raises a few questions like
1. why was there a glaring deviations from established law, departure from government policy and propriety,
2. What impact will this release have on bailkis Bano and her family.
3.How secure will women in India find this remission as?
4. Will this have any impact on the minority and vulnerable section of Society?
5. Can this remission policy be revoked.
and the chilling impact that this release will have, not just on Bilkis Bano and her family and supporters, but also on the safety of all women in India, especially those who belong to minority and vulnerable communities, we urge you to rescind the order of remission passed by the Gujarat government and send the 11 persons convicted of gangrape and murder back to jail to serve out their life sentence,” they wrote.