Five of the 10 members of the advisory committee of the Gujarat government, which recommended the release of the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, have links with the BJP, NDTV has found. Based on the recommendation, the men convicted of gangrape and murder, walked out of prison this Independence Day under an outdated remission policy of the state.
An official document that lists the members of the advisory committee shows it included two BJP MLAs, a member of the BJP state executive committee and two others, who are also linked to the party.
One of them, Vinita Lele, is listed as a social worker on the document. But her social media profile says she is a member of the BJP.
Another "social worker" is Pavanbhai Soni. The state BJP's web page, however, shows he is a member of the state executive committee of the party.
After multiple calls, and even a visit to his home, NDTV caught up with him at his shop. The address and contact number were listed on the Gujarat BJP website.
While he refused to speak on the matter, he did not deny his or the others' involvement in the committee or the BJP.
Sardarsingh Patel is another "social worker" listed as a member of the committee. He is also said to be a member of the BJP. NDTV got his contact number from the BJP office in Godhra.
The other members include the BJP's CK Raulji, the MLA from Godhra and Sumaben Chauhan, the MLA from Kalol.
In addition to the politically linked members, the committee also included the Jail Superintendent, the District Police Superintendent, Principal District Judge, a district social welfare officer, and was headed by the District Magistrate of Panchmahal.
The Panchmahal District Magistrate, Sujal Mayatra, said the committee had not been formed to look into this case specifically. It was an existing jail advisory committee which considered such remission requests.
Refusing to say whether the recommendation for the release of the 11 convicts was unanimous, he said he had recommended remission looking at various factors like the time they have spent in jail, and their conduct inside and outside the prison.
Asked if he considered the gravity of their crimes before making his recommendation, he refused to comment.
The District Magistrate reiterated their recommendation was based on the Gujarat government's 1992 remission policy and they had submitted their recommendation to the state at the end of May.
The 1992 policy did not have restrictions on the premature release of those convicted of rape or sentenced to life imprisonment, unlike the later policies in both the state and at the Centre.
The Union Home Ministry's guidelines for a special remission policy, issued in June, said those sentenced to life imprisonment, and those convicted of rape should not be granted remission under the policy.
The latest guidelines in Gujarat, issued in 2014, also has similar restrictions on remission for those convicted of rape and murder.
The release of the convicts has real-world implications for Bilkis Bano and her family. NDTV could meet only her husband Yakub Rasool, that too at a public place.
"You are such a large channel, but we can't even tell you where we are," Yakub said, referring to the fear that has gripped them since the release of the men.