11 rapists in Bilkis Bano rape case were freed after 15 years.
In 2015, a new campaign was launched for women empowerment. But the data by the same government is screaming a different story – more girls born, but rape cases increased by 70% from 2001-2018.
Where in 2001, the registered rape cases were 11.6 per 1 lakh women, it was 19.8 in 2018. So, crime against women is increasing. Besides, in 2018, only 10% cases completed trial, and in 73% of it, the offenders were set free.
Why these 73% offenders were set free?
Possible reasons are –
- Criminal is a known person to the victim most of the times
- Allegations forcibly withdrawn/compromises made
- Long legal road to justice
- Increased reporting as well
The fact is, crime against women have increased. India’s rank in Women, Peace and Security Index2021 is 148/170. On one hand, government says that international ratings are flawed, on the other hand, ground reality speaks for itself. CNN wrote on Bilkis Bano case that rape convicts were freed, and the whole world is reading such news. The articles and rankings will reflect what is done on ground.
Let’s understand – what kind of magical law permits freedom for convicted rapists?
Articles 72 and 161 of the constitution give the President and Governors power to pardon, and to suspend, remit, or commute a sentence passed by the courts. Since prison is a state subject, the State Government also have the same power under Section 432 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to remit sentences. But, remission also has certain rules, such as – death sentence cannot be remitted. Even if death sentence is changed, at least serving of 14 years of jail is mandatory. As per remission policy, prisoners are often released on birth and death anniversaries of prominent leaders, and other important occasions like – the recent 76th Independence Day in the country.
After Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, some people were released on direction of Home Ministry – people such as, women, transgender above 50, men above age 60 and terminally ill convicts, among others. Meaning , such prisoners who won’t further disturb the society because of their behaviour.
But, the rules of the government say that rapists, money launderers and murderers cannot be in this release list.
Now, the question is – despite the rule, how come these 11 convicted rapists got released in the BilkisBano gang-rape case of 2002?
The panel of the State government says that they studied the case and remission application – 14 years in jail, behaviour in jail, age, and other factors considered.
Nature of Crime: What is this Bilkis Bano Case? Why were they convicted?
It’s a bit difficult to explain in an article with limited words, yet I shall try. If you want to learn more about it – many people have written on Bilkis Bano case – you can read it there in detail. Yet, let’s have a summative understanding of it here!
The incident dates back to 3rd March 2002 in Randhikpur village, Gujarat. 17 people escaping from riot in a truck being chased by a vehicle. There was a women named Bilkis Bano, who was pregnant and with her 3-year-old child. The child was snatched away, and killed on the spot in front of its mother. Bilkis, her sister and her cousin were all gang raped. 14 people were brutally killed. She was assumed dead too, but Bilkis Bano survived and reunited with husband.
Initially, she was hesitant to speak, but people, NGOs encouraged her to fight the case. Because the criminals were of her neighbourhood, she could identify them. The fight went on for years. As the system was supporting the criminals – all the reports were manipulated, evidence destroyed. This is not speculation, but revealed truth. Death body of the 3-year-old not found (certainly destroyed).
Lower court closed the case, but Bilkis kept fighting. She knocked the door of National Human Rights Commission. Yes, this commission exists. Not frequently heard of in the country now, but it exists. The Supreme Court opened the case in 2004 and referred to CBI. The case was transferred to Mumbai, as there was pressure in Gujarat.
Finally, of 20 accused, 12 were arrested. Bilkis was the witness and always under threat. One convict died during trial. In 2008, the remaining 11 were sentenced to life imprisonment. Doctors and police were not held accountable for fudging reports. But Bilkis continued the fight. Finally, in 2017, there was a sentencing for doctors and police who were also guilty.
The case had put the system in an embarrassing situation. Bilkis Bano was awarded 50 lakh compensation, which she invested in fixed deposit for her kids’ education. Life went on for Bilkis, it seemed – until recently, when her rapists were freed and greeted with garland, without any prior information or knowledge. Obviously, Bilkis has asked to be left alone, while her husband is numbed. It isn’t about Bilkis anymore. The same can happen to anyone anytime.
How was law manipulated?
Gujarat government made a fresh policy of remission in 2014. This contained an annexure listing cases where remission could not be granted – among them were those in which the prisoners were convicted for crime that was investigated by an agency under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, and prisoners convicted for murder with rape or gang rape.
Not to mention, remission is not an east procedure. So, if policy is such crystal clear, then why were convicts released?
Here is the play/the masterstroke…. Gujarat followed old policy to release convicts in Bilkis Bano case. Old policy of 1992 was used, and CBI judgement was in 2008. So, how can 1992 policy be used? Congress is attacking BJP saying how old policy can be used! You won’t find 1992 policy even on state government website. Loophole was made in the law.
Investigation was conducted by CBI, so as per section 235 (1) of CrPC, government had to consult before remission. So, was the central government consulted before remission was accepted? Because, how can prisoners convicted in such a serious crime be released in this way?
Gujarat government is saying that they are not in the wrong; they used 1992 policy which was applicable here. This is politics. You and I never heard of these policies before. Officials sit in the committee, and study the history, geography, behaviour of the prisoner before freeing the prisoner. Obviously, the release of 11 convicts by system has welcomed much outrage.
What kind of message is being sent across? Perhaps, indicating that if you are on a particular side, law will be with you. Recently, in a society, a party member used foul language with women. There are cases of marital rape, sexual harassment, harassment by authorities, offences against children, molestation, eve-teasing. So, how can people be above the law in heinous cases? Not limited to a party or state, same story repeated in Kerala, where court did not believe in a sexual harassment case. The reasoning given by court was that woman’s dress was sexually provocative – that is the logic, which is worrying.
NOTE – Beti Bachao is a slogan and a call. One request is to take back the order of release of gang rapists. Whatever your political leaning, the message sent by the release is not right, women won’t forgive if their safety is not your priority.
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