The release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case after 14 years shows they were reformed, retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Vivek Dube, who investigated the case, said on Tuesday in his first response on the issue. He also condemned the protests against the release of convicts and said it is “against the spirit of the Constitution”.
Dube was the joint director at the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which took up the Bilkis Bano case after the Supreme Court ordered an investigation 18 years ago. His team successfully investigated and secured the conviction of 12 men ( one died by suicide) for life, including five policemen and two doctors. The men massacred 14 members of Bilkis Bano’s family in Gujarat’s Dahod district in March 2002. The youngest of them was her three-year-old daughter Saleha whose head was smashed on a rock. A pregnant Bilkis was gang-raped. She survived because they left her for dead and came to symbolise the brutality witnessed during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
“The protest march and agitation by a section of people and media to assert that the release of the convicts has resulted in denial of justice to Bilkis have no basis. They are just being revengeful, which is against the spirit of the Constitution of India,” Dube said in a social media post.
He shared anecdotes of his meeting with Bilkis Bano during the investigation and said he “pledged to arrest all the accused and ensure that they got exemplary punishment”. However, he pointed out that the incarceration of a convict in prison is to reform him instead of taking revenge against him.
“In the prisons, all kinds of religious and motivational speeches were arranged to change the convicts’ way of thinking. Tutorial classes were held to enable the convicts to study and write board and university examinations. Simultaneously, the convicts were taught various kinds of trades, such as carpentry, plumbing work, biscuit making, electrician work etc.,” he added.
Dube upheld the rule that allows state governments to release life convicts after 14 years considering their exemplary behaviour in prison. “The release of 11 convicts after their incarceration of 14 years shows that they were reformed and their conduct and behaviour in the prison were exemplary,” he said.
Vivek Dubey retired from the police force as head of the Andhra Pradesh police force in 2015.
The 11 men were released on August 15 after one of them, Radheshyam Shah, approached the Supreme Court in April 2022 seeking remission, arguing that they had spent over 15 years in prison in the case.