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Personal sense of justice betrayed, writes BJP’s Shazia Ilmi on release of Bilkis Bano convicts

Ilmi wrote it is 'important to distinguish between' Gujarat government and PMO, adding that it was the VHP which felicitated the convicts and not the BJP.

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New Delhi: My “personal sense of justice feels betrayed”, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national spokesperson Shazia Ilmi wrote in an opinion piece for The Indian Express Saturday about the early release of 11 men convicted in the Bilkis Bano case.

While writing that the “collective conscience of the nation must prevail”, Ilmi defended the Modi government, saying that the remission “comes under the ambit of the BJP government in Gujarat” and that it is “important to distinguish between the state  government in Gujarat and the executive office of the Prime Minister”.

Terming accusations of bias or preferential treatment against the BJP in this regard as “ridiculous”, Ilmi wrote “the government carried out no campaigns for their release unlike, say, the Tamil Nadu government in 2018, which passed Cabinet resolutions for the release of Perarivalan and others convicted in the killing of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi”.

The television anchor-turned-spokesperson went further to add that remission granted to the 11 convicts is “less about jurisprudence and technicalities of law and more about justice”.

“No condemnation of the unspeakable agony of Bilkis Bano and the horrors that she has endured will suffice….I am appalled that the guilty in such a heinous crime can get away with a mere 15 years. On this, there can be no two opinions,” she wrote.

Ilmi, who was with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) until 2014, recalled how she was among those “who withstood the police lathis and tear gas shells at India Gate during the protests following the December 2012 gangrape and felt the pulse of a collective conscience”.

Stating that the remission was granted under the 1992 policy which bars relaxation in cases investigated by the CBI and for heinous crimes such as murder and rape, Ilmi wrote that she believes the remission is inconsistent with the spirit of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, “which incorporated several key amendments proposed by the J S Verma Committee towards gender justice”.

Ilmi noted that the argument here is whether remission should have been considered under the 2014 legislation — which excludes rape from the list of remittable crimes — adding that as per legal principles, while “all criminals can benefit from legislation enacted after conviction, they cannot be retrospectively punished by legislation enacted after punishment”. 

“Consequently, their remission had to be considered under the 1992 legislation that was quite liberal in extending the ambit of remissions,” she wrote.

Addressing the issue of how the convicts were feted following their release from jail, Ilmi argued that the same cannot be attributed to the BJP. 

“To attribute this to the BJP is particularly strange given the intense acrimony between the Gujarat BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the one hand and the VHP on the other,” Ilmi wrote.

She added that the VHP is “carrying out a campaign of vilification and defamation against PM Modi, accusing him of ‘destroying Hindu street power’ — perhaps not realising that they were paying tribute to his staunchly non-partisan conduct in matters of law and order.”

The BJP spokesperson concluded her argument by expressing faith in the Supreme Court to do right by Bilkis Bano.

“Even if our Constitution recognises the right to life and liberty and the collective opinion of a society is pronounced through law alone, where public outrage and declamation can play but a diminished role, I pray that the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case — whose remission will stay or be revoked — will make amends and will be answerable not just to the Rule of law but also to the Rule of Divinity,” she wrote.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: From Jharkhand to Yogi’s UP, BJP leaders are sparring with bureaucracy. ‘Petty’, say IAS officers


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