New Delhi:  As many as 134 former civil servants on Saturday wrote an open letter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) against the premature release of 11 convicts by the Gujarat government, who were serving life-term in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape case.

“We write to you because we are deeply distressed by this decision of the Government of Gujarat and because we believe that it is only the Supreme Court which has the prime jurisdiction, and hence the responsibility, to rectify this horrendously wrong decision, ” wrote the former bureaucrats.

Bilkis Bano has reportedly changed homes some 20 times over the years because of threats to her life. With the celebrated release of the convicts from jail, the trauma, suffering and vulnerability to harm for Bilkis Bano will be significantly heightened. It is also shocking that five out of the 10 members of the advisory committee, which sanctioned the early release, belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party, while the remaining are ex-officio members, they wrote.

This raises the important question of impartiality and independence of the decision, and vitiates both the process and its outcome, stated the letter.

“The story of Bilkis Bano is, as you know, a story of immense courage and persistence. A five-month pregnant, then 19-year-old Bilkis fled, along with her family and others, from their village in Dahod district on February 18, 2002, when around 60 Muslim homes were torched; they hid in the fields outside Chhapparwad village where armed men attacked them.

“Bilkis, her mother and three other women were raped and her three-year old daughter’s head was smashed. Later, eight persons were found dead and six were missing. Bilkis, naked and unconscious, an old man, and a three-year-old survived; her own daughter did not.

“It is a remarkable story of courage that this battered and bruised young woman, hiding from her tormentors, managed to seek justice from the courts, ” the seven-page letter read.

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