The Bilkis Bano judgment does not fall in line and parity
The Bombay High Court dismissed the appeals filed by 11 men convicted in the Bilkis Bano gang rape, murder case, and upheld the life sentence given to them by the trial court. The rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family members was one of the most horrifying incidents that had taken place during the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat.
High Court Advocate Abbas Kazmi told Afternoon Voice that, “Bilkis Bano case is a classic example of a ‘rarest of rare case’ as 6-month pregnant Bilkis Bano was raped and also 14 members of her family were raped and killed including her 3-year-old daughter in front of her eyes. The Accused deserved death sentence but were let off with a milder sentence of life. In the light of ‘Nirbhaya’ judgment where the four accused were given death sentence, the Bilkis Bano judgment does not fall in line and parity. It appears that our criminal justice delivery system is not uniform.”
Advocate Gloria Pandey told Afternoon Voice, “How can someone compare both Nirbhaya and Bilkis Bano case. Mob violence is separate, whereas this case is pure murder. In so many mob violence’s, women have been the victims be it Nandigram or Malda in West Bengal, Kashmiri Pundits, women rape cases and numerous other instances. So that means all the people involved in the mob were sentenced? One should have faith in judiciary; they are here to deliver justice.”
Her 15-year battle for justice finally bore fruit last week, when the Bombay High Court confirmed the life sentences of 11-men found guilty of rape and murder. While upholding the life sentence given to the convicts, the High court also dismissed an appeal by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seeking death sentence to at least three of them.
The CBI had sought death penalty, citing it as a “rarest of rare case” in its appeal. Death penalty must be awarded to three out of 11 people convicted in the case to send out a “stern message”, the agency had maintained in its plea. The court also set aside the acquittal of five policemen in the same case and directed the agency to probe them.
A special court in Mumbai later convicted 11 men: Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana for the gang-rape of Bilkis and murder of her family members on January 21, 2008 and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The 11 convicts had then challenged their conviction in the Bombay HC.
A division bench of Justice VK Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar had set aside the acquittals of some Gujarat police officials and two government hospital doctors, who the CBI had accused of tampering with evidence and Bilkis’ statement.
The CBI, however, moved HC seeking enhancement of punishment for Jaswantbai Nai, Govindbhai Nai and Radhesham Shah, saying the three played a significant role in “pre-planning and executing” the entire incident.
Writer and Journalist Vedant Sharma said, “During the 1971 Bangladesh war for independence, members of the Islamic Stani Sunni Muslims military and supporting Sunni Islamist militias Muslims from Sunni Jamaat-e-Islami raped between two and four hundred thousand Bangladeshi Hindu and Shia women in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape. During the war, a fatwa in was declared that the Bengali ‘freedom fighters’ were Hindus and that their women could be taken as the ‘booty of war’. Imams and Muslim religious leaders publicly declared that the Bengali women were ‘gonimoter maal’ (war booty) and thus they openly supported the rape of Bengali women by the Stani Sunni Army. The activists and leaders of Islamic parties were also involved in the rapes and abduction of women. Scholars have suggested that rape was used to terrorise both the Bengali-speaking Muslim majority and the Hindu minority of Bangladesh. The rapes caused thousands of pregnancies, births of war babies, abortions, incidents of infanticide and suicide. Whom to blame?
Saba Khan a student said, “The people who are convicted for this barbaric act and genocides are merely the goons hired by their henchman. They have been doing this kind of pogrom for the last few decades. They are the people who are poisoning the people’s mind based on their communal agendas. Our justice system will never catch these murderers.”