Over 6,000 citizens, including grassroot workers and women and human rights activists, have urged the Supreme Court to revoke the remission of sentences for 11 men convicted of rape and murder in the 2002 Bilkis Bano case.
"The remission of sentences for the 11 men convicted of gang-rape and mass murder will have a chilling effect on every rape victim who is told to 'trust the system', 'seek justice', and 'have faith'," they said in a joint statement.
The statement was given by activists Syeda Hameed, Zafarul-Islam Khan, Roop Rekha, Devaki Jain, Uma Chakravarti, Subhashini Ali, Kavita Krishnan, Maimoona Mollah, Hasina Khan, Rachana Mudraboyina, Shabnam Hashmi, among others.
The civil rights groups include Saheli Women's Resource Centre, Gamana Mahila Samuha, Bebaak Collective, All India Progressive Women's Association, Uttarakhand Mahila Manch, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Pragatisheel Mahila Manch, Parcham Collective, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Amoomat Society, WomComMatters, Centre for Struggling Women and Sahiyar.
Demanding that the remission must be revoked, the citizens noted that the early release of these murderers and rapists only strengthens the impunity of all men who commit rape and other acts of violence against women.
"We demand that women's faith in justice be restored. We demand the remission of sentences for these 11 convicts be immediately revoked and they be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of their life terms," the statement said.
Eleven convicts, sentenced to life imprisonment, walked out of the Godhra sub-jail on August 15 after the Gujarat government allowed their release under its remission policy. They had completed more than 15 years in jail.
A special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai on January 21, 2008 had sentenced the 11 to life imprisonment on charges of gang-rape and murder of seven members of Bilkis Bano's family.
Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay high court.
Bilkis Bano was 21-years-old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the violence that broke out after the Godhra train burning. Among those killed were her 3-year-old daughter.