Even as the Dahod SP agreed to the early release of 10 of the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case earlier this year, records show that two of the convicts – Ramesh Chandana, 58, and Mitesh Bhatt, 57 – had offences registered against them while they were serving their sentences.
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Case against convict Mitesh
Mitesh, for instance, was accused of assaulting a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty when he was out on parole. He allegedly committed the offence in June 2020, as per the affidavit of the Gujarat government submitted to the Supreme Court recently.
On Monday, the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case were released since they had completed 14 years in prison and their behaviour was found to be good, and also the Centre approved their release.
As per an annexure affidavit submitted to the top court, the state Home Department’s Under Secretary informed that accused Mitesh Chimanlal Bhatt is accused of committing an offence of outraging a woman’s modesty under Section 354 of the IPC while he was out on parole and the trial of the case is pending.
The information was provided to the District Magistrate Dahod by the district superintendent of police (SP) when the state government was considering the proposal to release the 11 convicts, including Mitesh Chimanlal Bhatt on remission.
Case against convict Ramesh
A case was also registered against Ramesh Chandana in 2015 under Prison Act 51 (a), and 51(b) for late surrender but in the communication dated March 7, 2022, then Dahod SP Hitesh Joysar noted: “However, there could not be any objection if premature release is given.”
Notably, of the 11 times Chandana availed furlough leave, he had surrendered late thrice, with a 122-day late surrender in 2015.
What SC said
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said that the Gujarat government’s response to petitions challenging the remission granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case is “very bulky”, where, instead of factual statements, a series of judgments have been cited. “A very bulky counter. Where is the factual statement, where is the application of mind?” a bench, headed by Justice Ajay Rastogi asked.
The bench, also comprising Justice C.T. Ravikumar, granted time to petitioners to file their response to the state government’s counter-affidavit and scheduled the matter for further hearing on November 29.
All convicts granted remission in August 2022
On August 15, all 11 convicts walked out of the Godhra sub-jail after serving a jail term of 18 years, after the Gujarat government granted them remission from life imprisonment. They were sentenced to life imprisonment in the 2002 post-Godhra Bilkis Bano gang-rape case.
Bilkis Bano gang rape case in 2002
On March 3, 2002, seven members of Bilkis Bano’s family were murdered by a violent crowd in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district, in aftermath of the Godhra Train burning case in Gujarat. 19-year-old Bilkis was gang-raped while she was five months pregnant.
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