Bilkis Bano Case: Gujarat government refuses to reveal file notings by remission committee

Debjit Mukherjee: Gujarat government has beheld the reveal of file notings of the recommendations made by the remission committee for the early release of Bilkis Bano gangrape case convicts. An Ahmedabad-based RTI activist, Pankti Jog, filed an RTI seeking details from the state government about the remission panel on various pointers. She sought the number of minutes of these meetings of these committees, names of the other prisoners recommended along, the file notings, and the criteria by which the members of the remission committee were selected. She filed the RTI on 20 August, just five days after the Gujarat government decided to free 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano’s gang rape case as part of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.’ The government partially answered the RTI in November by supplying government resolutions and documents related to the formation of the remission committee. Jog’s RTI revealed that on 13th May 2022, a separate commission including the Additional Chief Secretary, DGP, and IG was made. The notification released on the same date talks that the committee should make recommendations to the governor of the state as per the criteria of release. Article 161 of the constitution grants power to the governor to pardon, suspend and commute sentences in certain cases. The state government replied that the remission was based on the guidelines issued by the centre for the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav program. Earlier, the Supreme Court dismissed a review petition filed by the husband of Bilkis Bano, Bilkis Yakub Rasool that challenged the order that allowed the government to release the 11 convicts in the case.