Bilkis Bano, who was gangraped during the 2002 Gujarat riots, has also sought death penalty for her attackers, after the Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death sentences awarded to the four men convicted for the 2012 Delhi gangrape. The 36-year-old told Hindustan Times that she, too, “wants to get the same justice” and will consult lawyers to decide on further course of action.
The Bombay High Court on Thursday had dismissed an appeal by the Central Bureau of Investigation to enhance the punishment of three of the 11 convicts who had brutally assaulted Bano – then 19 and five months pregnant – to a death sentence. The attackers had also killed 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old child, on March 6, 2002, in Randhikpur near Ahmedabad.
The CBI had sought death sentences for Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, and Sailesh Bhatt, informing the High Court that this was a “rarest of rare case”. The Supreme Court on Friday had used this very term to justify its verdict in the Delhi gangrape.
Bilkis’ husband Yakub told Hindustan Times that the death sentence would act as a deterrent. “No other woman in India should have to face such a ghastly crime. It will act as a deterrent to future crimes, irrespective of their religion,” he told the daily.
The two verdicts, coming within a day of each other, drew charges of lack of uniformity in the judicial process. A section of lawyers said the Bilkis Bano case was equally, if not more, brutal and should have qualified as a rarest of rare case, reported The Hindu.
“As an opponent of death penalty, I wouldn’t have supported it in Ms Bano’s case. But I’m using it as an example just to say that when it comes to handing out punishments, the judiciary does not have a uniform standard. It gives death penalty to some, not to others,” said lawyer Rebecca John.
Another lawyer, Mahmood Pracha, told The Hindu: “It [Ms Bano’s case] was no less a rarest of rare case...I don’t know what weighs in the mind of a judge. In the overall current scenario, it creates doubt in the minds of people.”
Political leaders, too, compared the two judgments – Congress leader and President Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee tweeted, “Finally justice given in Nirbhaya case. What about Bilkis Bano? We should fight for the harshest punishment for those beasts who raped her and killed her child.”
President of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen Party Asaduddin Owaisi also questioned the Bombay High Court’s verdict. “Bilkis Bano case is a fit case wherein the collective conscience of the nation has to be satisfied, and all convicted should be given death penalty,” the Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad said, according to ANI.