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Why Bilkis Bano Not Getting Justice a Threat for Every Woman

IndiaWhy Bilkis Bano Not Getting Justice a Threat for Every Woman

When Supreme Court Judge Justice Bela M Trivedi recuses from hearing Bilkis Bano’s plea, it set all wondering why are the judges afraid.

It seemed strange that the judges are gingerly treading around one of the most heinous cases of rape and murder.  Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five months pregnant when she was gang-raped while fleeing the Gujarat Riots in 2002 that broke out after the Godhra train burning incident. Her three-year-old daughter was among the seven family members killed before her horrified eyes, her head was smashed on a rock.

Supreme Court judge Bela M Trivedi on Tuesday recused herself from hearing a plea filed by Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped and seven members of her family were brutally killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots, questioning the remission of sentence of 11 convicts in the case by the state government. As soon as a bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and Bela M Trivedi took up the matter for hearing, Justice Rastogi said that his sister judge will not like to hear the case.

“List the matter before a bench in which one of us is not a member”, the bench headed by Justice Rastogi ordered. The bench did not specify any reason for the recusal of justice Trivedi.

Bilkis Bano has also filed a separate plea seeking a review of the apex court’s May 13, 2022 order on a plea by a convict in which it had asked the Gujarat government to consider the plea for premature release of the convicts in terms of its policy of July 9, 1992, about deciding a remission petition within a period of two months.

In her plea against the grant of remission which had led to the freedom of the convicts on August 15, Bano has said the state government passed a mechanical order completely ignoring the requirement of law as laid down by the Supreme Court

The investigation in the case was handed over to the CBI and the trial was transferred to a Maharashtra court by the Supreme Court. A special CBI court in Mumbai had on January 21, 2008, sentenced the 11 to life imprisonment. Their conviction was later upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. The 11 men convicted in the case 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.

Why is the Supreme Court so afraid? Are they under a terrible threat that they are so terrified to sleep and take a morning walk anymore? Who is threatening them to this dreadful degree?  It is apparent that there is a higher power beyond the panel set up by the Gujarat government that is frightening the Supreme Court.  Who is behind the Gujarat government panel is the question and who is threatening the Supreme Court judges that they are so afraid to meddle with Bilkis Bano’s case?

Why is Bilkis Bano Not Getting Justice a Threat for Every Woman

  1.  The Indian Courts were once considered the highest authority in the land. Indians often used to say, “I trust the highest authority in the nation to give me justice” but now, we rarely hear people chant that anymore.   The zealous spirit of empowerment from the courts is dying.  However, it became apparent to the nation that the Supreme Court’s authority is not sovereign anymore. This became startlingly real when eleven men who were sentenced to life imprisonment in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case of 2002 were released from Godhra sub-jail on Monday (August 15, 2022) after a panel set up by the Gujarat government approved their application for remission of the sentence.  Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar said the remission application was regarded because the convicts had completed 14 years in jail, and factors such as “age, nature of the crime, behaviour in prison and so on”.  In releasing them, it proved that justice is shifty and fragile and people may not get justice due to preferences, likes, dislikes, and who’s in power.
  2. Since the court was not involved but rather a panel set up by the Gujarat government that approved the release of Bilkis Bano’s offenders, it is no open secret anymore that the politicians are getting to be above the Supreme Court of India, a shocking fact that is hitting the nation.  The sanctity of the courts is getting polluted.   Politicians according to their likes or dislikes can interfere with the courts.
  3. No woman in India is safe because tomorrow if a top powerful personality raped and murdered a woman, he would be scot-free because of special favors endorsed to his high position.  Imagine after raping a woman and killing her family members, those same people could be freed and return back to their village after some years?  A gory tale to be relived every day, no woman would ever feel safe and would eventually have to flee her own home or face the empowered men strutting around her streets, fearful she would be raped again or killed.
  4. It goes against the slogan that even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to raise “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” and runs hollow to the ears of Indians that India is the land where female goddesses are worshipped but still, women and girl children are being treated shoddily. With no past data prior to the colonial rule to reveal this, female infanticide in India has a history spanning centuries. Poverty, the dowry system, births to unmarried women, deformed infants, famine, lack of support services, and maternal illnesses such as postpartum depression are among the causes that have been proposed.

From the pre-colonial to the colonial era, British officials in India first became conscious of the tradition of female infanticide in 1789 in the Benares State, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. It was noted among members of the ruling Rajput clan by Jonathan Duncan, then the Company Resident.

Later, in 1817, in the Jamnagar Kingdom in modern-day Gujarat, officials noted that the practice was so ingrained with crimes against women that there were entire taluks of the Jadeja Rajputs where no female children of the clan existed.

Somehow the “justice” that Bilkis Bano is getting is reflective of a mindset that the crime committed against a woman is just a small thing. Justice denied to one woman for a heinous crime is justice denied to millions of women today and if this is excused, millions of other women will follow the same fate.  Rapes and murders of women will be trivialized.  In fact, today, when a girl is raped and murdered, the minds of certain people are reflected when they point out it was the girl’s fault in some way, they even blame the girl to protect the parents but never want to stress on the criminals unless they want to make it a communal issue.

So, every woman is in danger of not getting justice, depending on which way the wind blows, political favor or judge favor, but not justice flavor.

So, every woman is in danger of not getting justice, depending on which way the wind blows, political favor or judge favor, but not justice flavor.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

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