Justice (retired) U D Salvi, who had sentenced 11 men to life imprisonment in 2008 for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots, said Thursday that “the one who suffers knows it better”.
The 11 convicts were freed from jail Monday after a Gujarat government panel approved their application for remission of sentence.
Presiding over the trial, Justice Salvi, then special judge in the Mumbai City Civil and Sessions Court, had convicted the men, while observing that Bilkis’s deposition was “courageous”.
“I would only want to say that there are guidelines (on the aspect of grant of remission), the state itself lays down these guidelines. There are Supreme Court judgments on this too,” he told The Indian Express.
The trial was conducted before the Mumbai court after it was transferred by the Supreme Court in 2004 from Gujarat following apprehensions about its fairness and threats to Bilkis. The evidence in the case ran into thousands of pages, including witness statements.
“The judgement was delivered a long time ago. Now it is in the hands of the government. The state has to make a decision. Whether it is correct or not is for the court concerned or a superior court to see,” Justice Salvi said.
After the release of the convicts, Bilkis issued a statement through her lawyer. “Today, I can only say this – how can justice for any woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land. I trusted the system and I was slowly learning to live with my trauma. The release of these convicts has taken from me my peace and shaken my faith in justice,” her statement said.
Justice Salvi said he had not seen her statement but the judgement in the case was for all to read.
“The judgement can explain many things; the circumstances of the case, who are involved, and in what way the crime took place. She (Bilkis) had named the persons involved. It was not only based on identification of the accused,” he said. “The judgement will speak for itself. The judgement, the evidence before the court, confirmation of the judgement by the Supreme Court can be seen. These would be before the state which has to take a complete view along with the factual scenario now and then take a decision. It cannot be seen in isolation,” he said.