Bilkis Bano case: Mahua Moitra challenges convicts' release in SC
Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra has moved the Supreme Court to challenge the release of the 11 men convicted in the Bilkis Bano rape case. Her public interest litigation (PIL) challenged the Gujarat government's decision to release them under its remission policy and stated the "victim has legitimate apprehensions" regarding her safety. The development comes after a week of furor against their release.
Why does this story matter?
- Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when riots broke out in Gujarat, post the burning of a Sabarmati Express coach.
- On March 3, 2002, Bano and her family were attacked by a mob that raped her and killed her family members at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad.
- The 2002 Gujarat riots reportedly led to the death of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus.
'Release fails to bolster human justice'
Filed through advocate Shadan Farasat, Moitra's PIL said the Gujarat government has no power to grant remission to the convicts. "The release completely fails to bolster either social or human justice," it stated. Additionally, Moitra argued that the "wholesale release" of all 11 convicts shows that the state did not consider individual cases. The SC has accepted to hear the plea, according to PTI.
What else does the PIL say?
The TMC MP's PIL also said the convicts' release goes against SC's decision in Maru Ram vs Union of India where the court held that remission powers must "embrace reason, relevance, and reformation." It urged the court to frame guidelines for granting remission to prevent its abuse. She also sought to ensure "equitable application" of existing guidelines on remission powers of the state government.
'Where is the nation's moral compass?'
Last week, taking a jibe at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose MLAs and members were on the panel that recommended the convicts' release, Moitra said that the saffron party only revokes its decision under right-wing pressure or before elections. "Forget BJP- where is this nation's moral compass that we are watching 11 convicted rapists & killers being feted?" she earlier tweeted.
Judge who sentenced rapists condemns remission
Speaking to Bar & Bench, Justice UD Salvi, who had sentenced the 11 men to life in 2008, earlier said that their release sets a "very bad precedent." "A very bad precedent has been set. This is wrong... Now, convicts in other gang rape cases would seek similar relief," he said. Additionally, retired Justice Salvi said the courts have to make a decision now.
'How can justice for a woman end like this?'
Following the rape convicts' release, in a short but strongly-worded statement, Bilkis Bano questioned, "How can justice for a woman end like this?" Bano said that upon their release, the "trauma of the past 20 years" washed over her again. The survivor appealed to the Gujarat government to undo the decision and give her back the right to "live without fear and in peace."
Convicts were released on 'good behavior' on August 15
On August 15, the Gujarat government released all 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 for gang rape and murder in the riots, for "good behavior." Additionally, over 6,000 citizens, including bureaucrats, women and human rights activists, historians, and grassroots workers, among others, urged the SC in a joint statement to revoke the early release of 11 convicts last week.