Editorial: Justice, finally, for Bilkis Bano

Editorial: Justice, finally, for Bilkis Bano

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Tuesday, January 09, 2024, 10:05 PM IST
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Bilkis Bano deserves a pat on her back for relentlessly pursuing the case against her tormentors and finally succeeding against all odds. On Monday, the Supreme Court cancelled the remission granted to the 11 convicts who committed the heinous crimes and directed them to go back to jail. The two-member bench, consisting of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan, took this decision based on the argument that the Gujarat government did not have the jurisdiction to hear the remission plea. In fact, it was due to the fear that Bilkis Bano and other victims of the atrocities of May 3, 2002, would not get justice in Gujarat that the apex court had transferred the case to neighbouring Maharashtra for trial. Though the convicts were undergoing imprisonment in Gujarat, the right to grant any remission vested with the Maharashtra government.

It is a different matter that it was the Supreme Court itself that decided in May 2022 that the Gujarat government had the right to hear appeals of remission. At the first available opportunity, on Independence Day in 2022, Gujarat granted remission to the 11 convicts. They have been at large since then, enjoying all the creature comforts, while the victim has been going from pillar to post for justice. Now the court says that a convict had conned it to give the wrong verdict in May 2022. It is difficult to believe that the Supreme Court could be bluffed by a convict, resulting in the release of 11 convicts charged with gang-raping Bilkis Bano who was pregnant at that time, killing her three-year-old child and seven others in her family. As the court says, the convict in question and the Gujarat government worked in tandem to defeat the purposes of justice when they were released because they were “cultured” people. Ordinarily, the court should have initiated summary punishment for the convict who misled the court.

In retrospect, it was with great difficulty that the 11 people were tried and punished. When questions of remission are considered, it should also be pondered whether they feel guilty or would like to seek an apology from the person they tortured. Far from that, they were welcomed as if they were heroes who did something commendable. Let the verdict be a warning to all the guilty that, however highly placed they may be, justice will finally catch up with them one day.

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