Eleven convicts in the Bilkis Bano case surrendered before the Godhra jail authorities late Sunday night, in line with the stipulated two-week deadline set by the Supreme Court on January 8. The court had annulled the remission and premature release granted to the convicts by the Gujarat government on August 15, 2022.
The 11 convicts — Radheshyam Shah, Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Kesar Vohania, Baka Vohania, Raju Soni, Ramesh Chandana, Shailesh Bhatt, Bipin Joshi, Pradip Modhiya, and Mitesh Bhatt — arrived from Singwad in Dahod district to the Godhra sub-jail in Panchmahal district shortly before midnight, in two separate vehicles.
Most of the convicts arrived in a 10-seater multi-utility vehicle that was led by an SUV – the two cars made their way into the jail premises within minutes of each other. Officials of the district police confirmed that they had “tracked and escorted” all 11 accused into the jail premises.
In anticipation of the surrender, the Panchmahal district police had deployed several units of personnel on bandobast outside the Godhra sub-jail since late evening on Sunday. Authorities of Godhra sub-jail confirmed that the 11 convicts had surrendered at 11.45 pm on Sunday.
This comes two days after the Supreme Court dismissed their petitions seeking more time to surrender. The convicts had cited various reasons such as ill-health of ageing parents, a wedding in the family, and crop harvest, among others.
On January 8, the top court had quashed the Gujarat government decision to grant remission to the 11 convicts, who had been sentenced to life term for raping Bano and killing her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The court had said the Gujarat government “usurped” the power of the Maharashtra government and lacked competence and jurisdiction in the matter.
The Gujarat government had released the convicts on August 15 last year as per its 1992 remission policy, based on a May 2022 Supreme Court order in a petition filed by one of the convicts, Radheshyam Shah. Bano had challenged the state government’s decision before the apex court.
Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gangraped while fleeing with her family from Randhikpur in the aftermath of the 2002 Sabarmati train carnage. In the same incident, 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter, were killed.