New Delhi: Just two weeks after the 11 men convicted for gang-raping Bilkis Bano and killing several members of her family during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom were told to surrender by the Supreme Court, one of the convicts, Pradip Modhiya, was released on Wednesday on a five-day parole granted by the Gujarat high court. Modhiya was allowed to return to his village of Randhikpur in Dahod district because of his father in law’s death, The Indian Express reported.
The convicts had surrendered late on January 21 night.
Justice M.R. Mengdey had on February 5 allowed Modhiya parole from February 7 to 11. In his plea, Modhiya had asked for 30-day parole, with his lawyers saying it was to his credit that he had “reported back on time” after the Supreme Court’s orders and his behaviour in jail was also said to be good.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Vishakha Jain from Limkheda in Dahod told The Indian Express, “The HC has granted parole to the convict and he has returned to his village for five days. As per his parole conditions, he is not required to report to the Randhikpur police station… The district police has no role to perform during the parole period. He is expected to return on his own to jail.”
During his earlier stint in prison in the case since January 2008, before the Gujarat government’s controversial decision to grant all the convicts premature release, Modhiya had been let out on parole for 1,041 and on furlough for another 223 days.
In January, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Gujarat government for granting premature release to the 11 convicts. The bench said that the state of Gujarat “acted in complicity with the convicts” and noted that “it was this very apprehension which led this Court to transfer the trial out of the State” to Maharashtra.
The Gujarat government – under the same Bharatiya Janata Party which was in power during the riots – had announced the decision to grant the 11 men premature release on August 15, Independence Day, in 2022. Granting remission, the Gujarat government had said that this decision had been arrived at by a panel it had set up, comprising officials and ‘social workers’ – all of whom were BJP members or were connected with it. At that time, several of the accused had threatened witnesses while on temporary parole. One panel member, a BJP MLA, had said that the convicts deserved to be released because they were “Brahmins with good sanskaars, or values.”
Rights activists, legal experts and others – as well as Bilkis Bano herself – had expressed shock and outrage at this decision.