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India: Signatures collected in support of justice for Bilkis Bano to be sent to the Chief Justice of India

Tuesday 13 September 2022, by siawi3


Signatures collected in support of justice for Bilkis Bano to be sent to the Chief Justice of India

Citizens’ signatures were collected to demand cancellation of remission of sentence granted by Gujarat Government to 11 people convicted in the Bilkis Bano case

Sabrangindia 05 Sep 2022

Signature Campaign

Various women’s organizations, citizens groups, civil rights groups, and students’ groups in Mumbai have been carrying out signature campaigns for the last few weeks, to demand withdrawal of the remission of sentence granted to 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case on 15 August 2022.

The signatures of these citizens, who come from all walks of life, were collected, in one-to-one conversations by some organisations, at various places including in communities, trains, roadside, gardens, seafront, and protest demonstrations. Nearly 50 people were involved in the campaign spread across Airoli, Mumbra, Churchgate, Charni Road, Dadar West including all of western, central and harbour line trains. Leaflets in three different languages were circulated, citizens were urged to sign them to demand that the remission be cancelled.

Eventually, as many as 8320 signatures were collected by the joint efforts of various organisations such as All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), Bebaak Collective, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Habitat and Livelihood Welfare Association, Indian Christian for Democracy, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Justice Coalition of Religious - West India, National Solidarity Forum, One Future Collective, Pani Haq Samiti, Parcham Collective, Platform for Social Justice, Police Reform Watch, Prabodhan Yuva Sangh, Shoshit Jan Andolan, Urja Trust and the Vinayak Foundation.

On Tuesday, September 6, the feminists gathered at the General Post Office to mail the collected signatures to the CJI. Some images from the day may be seen here.

Speaking about the signature campaign, Chayanika Shah, member of Forum Against Oppression of Women told SabrangIndia, “As across the country, people are showing support for Bilkis Bano in different ways, we decided to take up the signature campaign. We needed to talk to the people and know their feelings about the grant of remission to the convicts of the gang rape case. We wanted to take into account the opinion of ordinary citizens. ” She further said, “Through the interaction, we found that many people were unaware about the remission news especially, younger generation who did not even know about the happenings of Gujarat 2002 riots. Merely, 10-20% had heard about it whereas 80% were not even aware. That is why one-on-one interaction to collect the signatures was adopted rather than online petitions so that we could talk to people and provide the right information to those who were unaware. While there were also a handful of people who simply refused to engage in the conversation, there were some who even asked why no questions were raised in other similar cases. ”

Pressing upon the importance of offline petitions, she stated, “Face-to-face interaction was a normal practice twenty years ago to collect signatures in support of a cause. It is more engaging than online communication which lacks the personal touch. Therefore, we wish to continue the campaign until the remission happens.”

When asked about people’s reaction during their interaction, she said, “Young people are more enraged. People are worried that the remission to the convicts granted in Bilkis Bano’s case sets a wrong precedent. They see it as an arbitrary decision which is not acceptable to people. People find the felicitation of the convicts post remissions to be distasteful. They do not appreciate the fact that after all the efforts taken to convict the accused in a gang rape case, their punishment is remitted. Some people even said that it would have been easier to accept the remission had it been granted on the basis of old age or severe health problems but it was simply arbitrary to grant remission to all 11 convicts merely because one person went to court asking for it.”

Difference in release provisions as per remission policies of 1992 and later

The main question surrounds the difference between the Gujarat Government’s remission policy of 1992 and 2014. As reported by NDTV, The Gujarat Government’s 1992 remission policy did not have restrictions on the premature release of those convicted of rape or sentenced to life imprisonment, unlike the later policies in both the state and at the Centre. When the channel spoke to Panchmahal District Magistrate, Sujal Mayatra, he reiterated their recommendation was based on the Gujarat government’s 1992 remission policy and they had submitted their recommendation to the state at the end of May.

Justice Salvi too has weighed in on this and told Bar and Bench, “There is no clarity if the State has made amendments to Section 376(2)g of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and its definition. Has the State changed the definition of gravity of this offence of gangrape? If there is a modification in its definition, then the 1992 policy would be applicable. But if the definition and gravity of gangrape continues to be the same without amendment, then the policy of 2014 would be applicable, which would mean they shouldn’t be given remission.”

According to Ms. Shah, the intention of the signature campaign in this case is to bring to the CJI’s attention “the grave violation of the Supreme Court order that convicted the accused in the first place. Granted remission merely on the basis of change in policy does not make sense. Supreme Court must pay attention to this.”

Brief background of the case

Bilkis Bano and her family had been attacked in Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002. In the particularly brutal attack, 14 members of her family were killed including Bano’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on a rock! Bano, who was over five months pregnant, was gang raped.

After Bano approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the Supreme Court ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The accused were arrested in 2004 and the trial originally began in Ahmedabad. However, Bano expressed concerns about witness intimidation and evidence tampering and the case was transferred to Mumbai in August 2004.

In January 2008, a special CBI court convicted 11 people in the case and sentenced them to life imprisonment. But seven people including policemen and doctors were acquitted. In 2017, the High Court upheld the conviction of the 11 people. The court also raised important questions about the role of five policemen and two doctors accused of not performing their duty and tampering with evidence, and set aside their acquittal.

She had been awarded Rs 50 lakh as compensation by the Supreme Court in April 2019 after a prolonged legal battle. But despite that the state government delayed payment of compensation for five months and only did so after the SC once again directed them to do it in September 2019.

In July 2020, some of the accused who were out on parole, allegedly assaulted and attempted to intimidate a witness in the case. This after the witness tried to prevent them from assaulting two women in a separate matter.


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