India

Union Minister Pralhad Joshi supports the release of 11 Bilkis Bano rape convicts: As per legal provision

Breaking the Centre’s silence on the premature release of 11 people serving a life term in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines, Prahlad Joshi, on Tuesday defended the release of the convicts, saying it “It was done accordingly.”

Speaking to The Indian Express over the phone from Kutch, where he is participating in the BJP’s Gujarat Gaurav Yatra, he said, “Whatever is done is as per the legal provision.

His remarks came a day after the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court that it had decided to release the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case because they had “been 14 years and above in jail… their behaviour was found to be good” and The Center also “informed (its) consent/approval”.

Joshi is the first senior BJP leader and cabinet minister to publicly defend the decision to release the 11 convicts.

In the wake of the outrage and condemnation after the sentence was waived and the convicts felicitated, the BJP leadership has so far remained silent.

The exception was BJP leader and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who, days after the release of the convicts, said it was wrong for the convicts to be “honoured”.

“The convicts served their sentences and were released as per the order of the Supreme Court. However, whoever the accused is, it is wrong to honour them upon release. A convict is a convict and cannot be awarded,” Fadnavis had said.

While the leadership or the party has made no public statement, there is unease among BJP leaders, with some senior leaders admitting privately that the relaxation and subsequent developments have led to embarrassment and that “PM Modi goes against women”.

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