A senior law officer representing the Centre in the Bilkis Bano case in the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked what was wrong with family members of an accused person garlanding him on his release from jail, Live Law reported.

The court was hearing a petition by Bano as well as a batch of public interest litigations challenging the Gujarat government’s decision to grant remission to 11 convicts in the case.

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for one of the petitioners, urged the court to take note of the way the convicts were welcomed after they were granted early release. “[Bano’s rapists] have been garlanded and felicitated,” she said. “Statements been made that they are Brahmins and can’t commit such crimes. There’s denial that crime was committed.”

To this, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju asked: “What is wrong with garlanding a family member who comes out of jail?”

Bilkis Bano was gangraped in a village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002, during the communal riots in Gujarat. She was 19 and pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family were also killed in the violence. Among the dead was her three-year-old daughter whose head was smashed against the ground by the attackers.

On August 15, the convicts in the case were released from a Godhra jail after the Gujarat government approved their application under its remission policy.

Immediately after the convicts stepped out of prison, they were greeted by their relatives and neighbours with garlands, tilaks and sweets. Later, they went to an auditorium of the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Trust, where a man named Arvind Sisodia – who identified himself as a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – was also seen garlanding them.

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In Godhra, Bilkis Bano convicts felicitated by RSS member soon after their release

Public outcry won’t affect judicial decisions: SC

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that it will consider only legal arguments in the case and its decisions will not affected by a public outcry, PTI reported.

This was after advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing for Bano, said that “public outcry” was among the factors that should have been considered while granting remission. She said that the release of the 11 men had led to agitations all over the country.

On Monday, Gupta had told the court that the convicts had chased Bano with a “bloodthirsty approach” to hunt Muslims and kill them during the 2002 riots. She argued the crime was not one that was committed on the spur of the moment.

“She kept pleading that she is like a sister to them as she knew all of them,” she told the bench. “They raised slogans ‘these are Muslims, kill them’. The High Court has taken note that the crime committed by them was rare, uncommon and driven by communal hatred.”

The Supreme Court will on Wednesday hear arguments on whether people other than Bano had the right to approach the court with petitions. The public interest litigations have been filed by Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Subhasini Ali, journalist and filmmaker Revati Laul as well as Professor Roop Rekha Varma.