Bilkis Bano case: All 11 convicts surrender at Godhra jail shortly before end of deadline

They surrendered before midnight of Jan 21, which was the deadline set for them

[File] A woman holds a placard during a protest against the release of men convicted of gang-raping Bilkis Bano | AFP [File] A woman holds a placard during a protest against the release of men convicted of gang-raping Bilkis Bano | AFP

All 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case have surrendered at the Godhra sub-jail in Gujarat's Panchmahal district in keeping with the deadline set by the Supreme Court.

The 11 convicts surrendered before jail authorities late Sunday night, local Crime Branch inspector NL Desai said. "They reached the jail before midnight of January 21, which was the deadline set for them to surrender," he said.

The top court on January 8 annulled the remission granted by the Gujarat government to the 11 convicts in the high-profile case while slamming the state for being "complicit" with an accused and abusing its discretion. 

It ordered the convicts, who were released prematurely on Independence Day in 2022, to go back to jail within two weeks.

The apex court on Friday rejected pleas of the convicts for grant of more time to surrender and asked them to do so by Sunday.

The 11 convicts are Bakabhai Vohania, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Govind Nai, Jaswant Nai, Mitesh Bhatt, Pradeep Mordhiya, Radheshyam Shah, Rajubhai Soni, Ramesh Chandana and Shailesh Bhatt.

Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while trying to escape the horror of the communal riots that broke out after the Godhra train burning incident in February 2002. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members killed.

On August 15, 2022, the 11 convicts, who spent 14 years in jail as part of the life sentence, were granted premature release after the Gujarat government accepted their remission applications in accordance with its 1992 policy, citing their 'good conduct' during imprisonment.

The 11 convicts are residents of Singvad and Randhikpur villages in Singvad taluka of Dahod district near Panchmahal.

Quashing the remission order, the Supreme Court had ruled that the Gujarat government lacked jurisdiction to grant premature release to the convicts as the case trial was held in Maharashtra.

Days after the SC order, the convicts moved the top court seeking more time to surrender on various grounds such as failing health, impending surgery, son's marriage and harvesting ripe crops.

 These applications were dismissed by the apex court on Friday with the observation that the reasons cited had no merit. 

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