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Union Minister Pralhad Joshi backs release of 11 Bilkis Bano rape convicts: As per legal provision

Bilkis Bano was gangraped and her three-year-old daughter Saleha was among 14 killed by a mob on March 3, 2002, in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district, during the post-Godhra riots.

Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi. (PTI/File)

Breaking the Centre’s silence over the premature release of 11 men serving life sentences in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case, Pralhad Joshi, Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines, Tuesday defended the release of the convicts, saying it was done “as per the legal provision”.

Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Kutch, where he is taking part in the BJP’s Gujarat Gaurav Yatra, said, “Whatever is done is as per the legal provision. After one spends required time in jail, there is a provision to get free. In this case, that provision, which is absolutely legal, has been done.”

His remarks came a day after the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that it had decided to release the convicts in Bilkis Bano case as they had “completed 14 years and above in prison… their behaviour was found to be good” and the Centre had also “conveyed (its) concurrence/ approval”.

 

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The 11 convicts of the Bilkis Bano case of the 2002 Gujarat riots, walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15, serving 18 years of their life term, after the Gujarat government granted them remission from the life sentencing. (Express photo)

Joshi is the first senior BJP leader and Cabinet minister to publicly defend the decision to release the 11 convicts.

The BJP leadership has so far maintained silence in the wake of the outrage and condemnation in the wake of the remission of sentences and the felicitation of the convicts.

The exception was BJP leader and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who, days after the release of the convicts, said it was wrong for the convicts to have been “honoured”.

“The convicts served their sentence and were released as per a Supreme Court order. However, be it any accused, honouring them on their release is wrong. A convict is a convict and they cannot be honoured,” Fadnavis had said.

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Although there has been no public statement by the leadership or the party, there is unease among BJP leaders with some senior leaders admitting in private that the remission and the developments that followed have led to embarrassment and “goes against Prime Minister Modi has been advocating Nari Shakti.”

First published on: 18-10-2022 at 17:15 IST
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