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Minister Defends Release Of Bilkis Bano Convicts

After an explosive revelation about the centre and Gujarat fast-tracking the early release of 11 men convicted of raping Bilkis Bano and killing her family in the 2002 Gujarat riots, a Union Minister today defended the move while campaigning in the state.

“I don’t find anything wrong in it as it is a process of law,” Pralhad Joshi, the Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, told NDTV.

The minister said for convicts who have spent “quite some time” in prison, “there is a provision” for release.

“Accordingly, as per law, it is done,” Mr Joshi said.

The Gujarat government has told the Supreme Court that the men were released as they had been in jail for 14 years; their behaviour was found to be “good”; and the centre had approved it.

The Union Home Ministry approved the release of the convicts within two weeks of Gujarat requesting it. Gujarat had sought the Centre’s approval on June 28. The one-page sign-off came swiftly, on July 11.

The convicts walked free on August 15 Independence Day amid nationwide outrage. Outside the prison in Gujarat, they were greeted like heroes with garlands and sweets.

Both the Centre and Gujarat dismissed strong objections from the CBI and a special judge to freeing these men. The offence was “heinous, grave and serious” and deserved no leniency, the CBI had said last year.

A special judge had called it the “worse form of hate crime… committed only on the ground that the victims belong to a particular religion. In this case, even minor children were not spared.”

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