Bilkis Bano Case: Where Have the 9 Out of 10 Convicts Vanished To?

After the Supreme Court's recent decision overturning the Gujarat government's remission order , the convicts have gone missing under mysterious circumstances.
The convicts in  Bilkis Bano case
The convicts in Bilkis Bano case

New Delhi- In a startling turn of events following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Gujarat government's remission order in the Bilkis Bano case, nine out of the ten convicted individuals have mysteriously gone missing.

On January 21, 2008, Mumbai's CBI Special Court sentenced 11 convicts to life imprisonment on charges of raping and murdering the pregnant woman. One convict died during the trial. Therefore, a total of 10 individuals were sentenced to life imprisonment, and they were released by the Gujarat government in 2022.

The apex court's ruling, which accused the state government of misusing its powers, has raised questions about the administration of justice in a case that involves the heinous gang rape and murder of Bilkis Bano and her family members during the 2002 riots.

The apex court rejected the state's decision to grant remission to 11 convicts and directed that all the culprits be sent to jail within two weeks.

Bilkis and her family left their home in Randhikpur on February 28, 2002, following the Godhra train burning incident. On March 3, 2002, a mob in Limkheda taluka of Dahod gang-raped and killed Bilkis, along with 14 family members, including her three-year-old daughter. The bodies of six victims were never found.

On January 21, 2008, the Special Court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sentenced 11 convicts to life imprisonment. In the year 2022, a convict who had served more than 15 years in prison filed a petition for remission in the Gujarat High Court. The Gujarat High Court stated that the right to remission in this case lies with the Maharashtra government because the case was ongoing there. The convict then approached the Supreme Court. In May 2022, the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat government to consider the matter. The Gujarat government formed a committee, chaired by Sujal Mayatra, which decided to release all the convicts. All the convicts were released on August 15, 2022.

The convicts in  Bilkis Bano case
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Following their release, the accused were welcomed with flower garlands and sweets, but after the Supreme Court's recent decision, all of them have gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Reports indicate that the houses of the convicts in Randhikpur and Singwad villages are now locked, with a police presence. At least nine out of the 11 convicts lived in these villages, and they are now reported as "missing."

Akhambhai Chaturbhai Rawal, father of one of the convicts, Govind Nai, claimed his son's innocence and attributed the conviction to "Congress political vendetta." He mentioned that Govind had left the house a week ago, emphasizing their Hindu faith-practicing family that shuns crime. Despite the disappearance of the accused, Rawal expressed the belief that Govind would comply with the law's directive to return to jail.

The media reports indicate that Govind's residence is the farthest from where Bilkis lived in 2002. Govind's house, adjacent to his parents' kutcha house, was found locked and guarded by a constable. Another convict, Radheshyam Shah, has been absent from home for the last 15 months, according to his father, Bhagwandas Shah. However, conflicting information suggests that almost all the culprits were seen in public until recently. Bhagwandas claimed ignorance about Radheshyam's whereabouts, mentioning that he had left with his wife and son. With the police now guarding the closed houses, the whereabouts of the accused remain unknown.

The Supreme Court's recent decision criticized the Gujarat government's order of sentence commutation, questioning whether remission in punishment is allowed for heinous crimes against women, regardless of the victim's religion or creed. Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant at the time of the incident, which occurred during the 2002 riots following the Godhra train fire.

The Mumbai's CBI Special Court sentenced 11 convicts to life imprisonment on charges of raping and murdering the pregnant woman. However, seven individuals were released due to a lack of evidence. Among them were five policemen and two doctors accused of shielding the culprits and tampering with evidence. One convict died during the trial. Therefore, a total of 10 individuals were sentenced to life imprisonment, and they were released by the Gujarat government. After the Supreme Court's order to initiate their arrest, 9 out of these individuals were not found at their homes.

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