When Judge Uday Umesh Lalit was sworn in as India’s 49th Chief Justice on Saturday, more than 130 former officials wrote an open letter to him against the early release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. They also asked him to rectify this ‘terribly wrong decision’.
They asked the CJI to revoke the Gujarat government’s release order and return the 11 people convicted of gangrape and murder to serve their life sentences. “Like the vast majority of people in our country, we are stunned by what happened a few days ago in Gujarat, on the 75th anniversary of India’s independence,” the statement said.
Who wrote the letter to the CJI?
Former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung, former Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar, former Foreign Ministers Shivshankar Menon and Sujatha Singh and former Home Minister GK Pillai were among the 134 signatories to the letter, written under the auspices of the Constitutional Behavior Group.
The former officials said the release of the convicts “has infuriated the nation”.
“We are writing to you because we are deeply saddened by this decision by the government of Gujarat and because we believe that only the Supreme Court has primary jurisdiction, and thus the responsibility, to rectify this horribly wrong decision,” the statement read. letter. read.
READ | What is methamphetamine, the drug Sudhir Sangwan gave Sonali Phogat in Curlies?
SC gives notice to Government of Center and Gujarat
On August 25, the Supreme Court notified the Center and the government of Gujarat of a plea challenging the release of the 11 convicts and placed the case in court after two weeks.
Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was raped while fleeing the riots that broke out after the Godhra train that burned in 2002. Her three-year-old daughter was one of the seven dead.
In January 2008, a special CBI court in Mumbai sentenced the 11 to life imprisonment on charges of gang rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court.
The former officials wrote: “The case was rare because not only the rapists and murderers were punished, but also the police officers and doctors who tried to tamper with the evidence and obliterate it to protect the accused and the crime.”
After serving 15 years in prison, one of the accused, Radheshyam Shah, went to the Supreme Court to plead for his early release, the letter said.
The Gujarat Supreme Court, previously approached for this purpose, had rejected his plea but noted that the “appropriate government” to decide the case was Maharashtra’s and not Gujarat’s, it said. Radheshyam Shah then filed a plea to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has also ruled, at the request of Radheshyam Shah, that the request for early release must be heard by the government of Gujarat within two months, and in terms of its policy of 9 July 1992, it said.
“It is beyond us why the Supreme Court found the case so urgent that a decision had to be made within two months, as well as the fact that the Supreme Court ordered that the case be investigated under Gujarat’s 1992 remission policy and not the current Gujarat remission policy. policy.” ‘ the letter read.
“In view of these egregious departures from established law, deviance from government policy and decency, and the chilling impact this release will have, not only on Bilkis Bano and her family and supporters, but also on the safety of all women in India, especially those belonging to minorities and vulnerable communities, we urge you to revoke the Gujarat government’s remission and return the 11 people convicted of gangrape and murder to their prisons life in prison,” they wrote.
(With inputs from PTI)