"Immoral and shameful" says Opposition as BJP lawmakers share stage with Bilkis Bano's rapist

The Supreme Court will hear the six petitions challenging the remission of sentence of the 11 convicts on Monday

"Immoral and shameful" says Opposition as BJP lawmakers share stage with Bilkis Bano's rapist

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

One of the 11 convicts in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case, Shailesh Bhatt, freed prematurely on Independence Day last year under Gujarat's remission policy, was seen sharing a stage with BJP MP Jaswant Bhabhor and his MLA brother Shailesh Bhabhor at a government event held at Limkheda in Dahod district of Gujarat.

Ahead of the Supreme Court's hearing batch of pleas challenging the remission on Monday, Bhabhor sharing stage with BJP lawmakers went viral on social media.

Calling it a "shameful" and "immoral" display, the Indian opposition condemned this incident in unison.

"I want to see these monsters back in jail & the key thrown away. And I want this satanic government that applauds this travesty of justice voted out. I want India to reclaim her moral compass," Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra wrote on Twitter.

Telangana’s ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha, who is currently seeking protection from arrest and challenging the summons issued the Enforcement Directorate against her in the money laundering case related to the Delhi excise scam, said that perpetrators of heinous crimes against women were being celebrated.

“What have we become as a community that perpetrators of heinous crimes against women are being celebrated and given a platform while the victims plead for justice. India is watching,” she tweeted.

Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi wrote: "A convicted rapist is now free thanks to BJP. There is just no need for the government to even pretend [to be] concerned anymore towards women safety. Shameful."

Congress MLA Jignesh Mevani hit out at the Centre by saying that: "BJP as a party has not just lost their conscience but have normalised every wrong happening in the society. Things have clearly moved beyond shame now. Sharing a stage with BJP MP and MLAs is a rapist of Bilkis Bano who spent 15 years in jail."

The 11 convicts were garlanded and offered sweets upon their premature release on August 15, 2022. BJP leader BJP CK Raulji justified their release by claiming that they are "Brahmins with good values".

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs approved the premature release of the convicts, while the Gujarat government cited their "good behaviour" as a key reason to grant remission.

A bench of justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna is set to hear six petitions challenging the remission filed by several political and civil rights activists, and a writ petition filed by Bilkis Bano.

This development comes days after Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud agreed to set up a new bench to hear pending pleas on the matter as Bano’s lawyer pointed out that the matter was not heard in the top court since December.

In November last year, Bano approached the Supreme Court challenging the remission of the 11 convicts. Bhatt and the 10 other convicts gangraped 19-year-old Bano while she was five months pregnant and killed seven members of her family.

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