Opposition, lawyers hail SC verdict on Bilkis Bano case, slam BJP for 'aiding rapists'

Today the Supreme Court’s decision has once again told the country who is the patron of criminals: Rahul Gandhi on X

File photo of activists in Mumbai at a rally in support of Bilkis Bano (photo: National Herald archives)
File photo of activists in Mumbai at a rally in support of Bilkis Bano (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Digital

Several Opposition party leaders hailed the Supreme Court for quashing the remission granted by the Gujarat government to the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, calling it the ‘symbol of justice’.

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said Bano’s struggle was a symbol of the “victory of justice” against the “arrogant BJP government”. He pointed out that the tendency to ‘kill justice’ for electoral gains is dangerous for democracy. “Today the Supreme Court’s decision has once again told the country who is the patron of criminals,” he posted on X.

After an 11-day hearing that began in August, a division bench of Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan had reserved its judgment in this case on 12 October. The Supreme Court on Monday stated that the 11 convicts must report to the concerned jail authorities within two weeks and surrender. "Rule of law must prevail. Since the remission orders are set aside, the natural consequences must follow.”

Congress national general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said justice has prevailed. “With this order, the veil over the BJP’s anti-women policies has been lifted. After this order, the public’s trust in the justice system will be further strengthened. Congratulations to Bilkis Bano for continuing her fight bravely,” she said.

Pawan Khera, chairman of media and publicity in the Congress, said the judgment quashing the release of 11 convicts has exposed the BJP’s disregard for women.

“It is a slap on the face of those who facilitated the illegal release of these criminals and also those who garlanded the convicts and fed sweets to them, by bulldozing justice. India will not allow administration of justice to be incumbent on the religion or the caste of the victim or the perpetrator of a crime,” posted Khera on X.

Welcoming the Supreme Court judgment, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury underscored that justice was finally delivered to Bano. "It appears that Justice is being delivered to Bilkis Bano finally after two long decades. The brutality of gang rapes and mass murders cannot be brushed aside & the perpetrators remain unpunished," he posted on X.

Senior CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat highlighted that the Supreme Court judgment was a "hard slap" on the face of the Gujarat government. “What is significant about the judgment are the findings of the court that the petitioner did not come to the court with clean hands; that there were fraud documents submitted, and the fact that the Gujarat government supported this. Gujarat government was behind the release, means that the Supreme Court judgment today is a hard slap on the face of the Gujarat government.

“I salute Bilkis herself, her strength, courage her transformation from a victim to a survivor and a survivor to a fighter that is an example for all women in this country fighting for justice against sexual and communal crimes,” Karat added.

AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi demanded an apology from the BJP governments at the Centre and in Gujarat to Bilkis Bano in the light of the Supreme Court judgment. “Bilkis Bano has gone through turbulent times. The BJP’s slogans of women empowerment are hollow. Instead of standing with Bilkis Bano, the party ensured these convicts were released. A BJP MLA even called these rapists sanskari,” underscored Owaisi.

Criticising the BJP-led Union government's commitment to nari shakti (women's empowerment), senior Trinamool Congress leaders condemned the Gujarat government for "supporting" the convicts. TMC national spokesperson and minister Shashi Panja accused the Gujarat government of being complicit and acting in collaboration with the convicts.

The party also commended the apex court's verdict on its official handle, stating, "The Supreme Court's ruling quashing the release of 11 rapists of Bilkis Bano by Gujarat Govt lays bare BJP's utter indifference to women! It is a slap on the face of the BJP who facilitated the release of these criminals and glorified the convicts! Justice will always prevail over political agendas!"

Reacting to the SC verdict, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said this is a victory for justice and it will remain a bloodstained blot on the Gujarat government.

“I welcome the Supreme Court decision reversing the release of 11 rapists of #BilkisBano & the murderers of her family. It will remain a bloodstained blot on the Gujarat government that it illegally released these convicts and that a BJP leader justified it because they were Brahmins!” Tharoor wrote on X.

Fellow Congress leader Priyank Kharge said the verdict on Bilkis Bano reinstates public trust in the judiciary’s independence to a certain extent. “A reminder that all 11 convicts were granted remission by the Gujarat government; will PM Narendra Modi find the courage to take action on them? Huge respect for Bilkis Bano, her resilience, and courage is inspirational.”

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)’s national general-secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty said the Supreme Court's decision rectified an error.

Lawyers hail judgement

Advocate Shobha Gupta appeared for Bano, while senior advocates Indira Jaising and advocates Vrinda Grover, Aparna Bhat, Nizamuddin Pasha, and Pratik R. Bombarde appeared for various public interest litigants.

Addressing the media, Grover said, “The court has said the law is clear that the appropriate government is the government where the accused are tried and sentenced as we know in the case of Bilkis Bano, which in this case is Maharashtra.” The trial was transferred by the Supreme Court to a special court in Maharashtra, where they accused were convicted and the conviction has been upheld by all superior courts.

Grover pointed out that the Supreme Court had stated that the order obtained in 2022 was acquired through "playing fraud" upon the court. If such an order has been obtained, it holds no meaning in the eyes of the law.

“It is a very good judgement which has upheld the rule of law and the faith of the people of this country, particularly the women, in the legal system, the courts, and that there is an assurance for justice," added Grover.

Thanking expelled TMC MP Mahua Moitra for giving her an opportunity to argue the Bilkis Bano case, Jaising said the judges have said the “Gujarat Government usurped the power”, and that the rule of law has been violated. “All convicts are directed to return back to prison. The case has made history for all right minded Indians,” posted Jaising on X. Moitra was one of the public interest litigants in the case.

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