Muslim bodies have condemned the release of the 11 men convicted in the Bilkis Bano case, calling it "a wrong message for the society as well as the victim".
"At à time when laws have been framed to punish rape with capital punishment, we have a case of men convicted of both rape and murder being released. It is not just condemnable but jeopardises the security of women," said Niaz Faruqui, a senior functionary of Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind. “We have seen cases of capital punishment in some recent cases of rape but here those convicted of both rape and murder have been released. It amounts to double standards for the same crime depending on the identity of the victim,” he said.
In a statement to the media, vice-president of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Salim Engineer, said, "We are dismayed by the role of the Gujarat government in ensuring the release of those convicted and sentenced for life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case and the murder of seven members of her family. Such decisions are aimed at reaping political dividends to appease a particular constituency. We hope the apex court intervenes in the matter to reverse this grave injustice carried out under the guise of official government policy."
‘Mockery of system’
Pointing out that “the remission policy should be applied for those languishing in jails for petty crimes,” he asked, ‘If State governments are allowed to free criminals through a remission policy then this will make a mockery of our justice dispensation system.”
Claiming that it will "embolden the foot soldiers and their masterminds", he said the action exposed the hypocrisy of women empowerment claims. Incidentally, those released in the Bilkis Bano rape case were convicted by a CBI court and the decision was upheld by the Bombay High Court. Of these 11 convicted, only one had approached the Supreme Court for the remission of sentence after which the apex court directed the Gujarat government to look into his appeal for premature release. The State government formed a panel and decided in favour of remission of all the 11 convicted. "The Supreme Court should reverse the decision," Mr. Faruqui said.
In a related response, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan asked the State government to revoke the remission granted to the convicts. “This act of setting the culprits free is in violation of the Centre’s guidelines on remission. It invokes ethical questions over the State showing compassion for the accused while the woman who suffered unspeakable brutalities is left scarred for a lifetime. This is a setback for several Nirbhayas across the country awaiting justice,” the Andolan stated.
In a separate statement, the All India Democratic Women’s Association condemned the action, calling it “outrageous and shocking”. “On a day when the Prime Minister was highlighting the need to protect women against crimes, the BJP’s Gujarat government decided to release those convicted of brutal gangrape and murder. It sets a bad precedent that crimes against Muslims can be committed with virtual impunity and no accountability.”