Court verdicts dominated the headlines the entire last week.
Many of the brutal sexual violence and murder cases during the 2002 Gujarat genocide have not been even registered. One of them was a continuance of the legal battle by a woman, Bilkis Bano against the attackers who gangraped her and killed 14 members of her family including her infant daughter. The Gujarat police had attempted to weaken and rub out the case. However, the Human Rights Commission intervened transferring the case to outside the state and trying it in the special CBI court. The eleven convicts were awarded life sentences in 2008. The Bombay High Court that recently dismissed the appeal filed by the culprits, upheld the verdict. Another was the Supreme Court upholding the death penalty slapped on the four convicts by a lower court in the Nirbhaya gang rape case of 2012. Jyoti Singh succumbed to injuries following the attack. Bilkis has now said that she wants the same justice as Nirbhaya and that she would approach the apex court seeking death sentence to the convicts. The High Court had earlier rejected an appeal seeking death penalty filed by the CBI by considering the case as ‘rarest of rare’. Death sentence have not been awarded in the case. But has Bilkis really been awarded justice? While the first verdict in the case came six years after the incident, the High Court verdict came after 15 years. The case would now make its way to the Supreme Court. The child who was growing in her womb while she was being raped, the few of the relatives who survived the riot and some of the civil rights activists were those who stood firm with Bilkis in her struggle for justice battling all the intimidations, temptations and the tough times.
The Supreme Court came up with a verdict in the Nirbhaya case in 4.5 years. The incident occurred more than ten years after the Bilkis Bano case sparking a nationwide outrage that demanded justice for Nirbhaya who came to be known as India’s daughter. Since it was the leaders of the present ruling party and their supporters who unleashed sexual violence against Bilkis and killed her family members, those in the apex court might not see the murder of fourteen persons of a family and gangraping their women as a rare crime. Since the perpetrators in the Nirbhaya case had no political influences, the court tightened the noose over their necks as there was more enthusiasm to satisfy the ‘public conscience’ of the nation. Other than the fact that the case formalities were completed effectively, will the nation be able to heave a sigh of relief in the Nirbhaya case? Has she been awarded justice? Since Bilkis Bano is still forced to live in hiding concealing her address, it’s a denial of justice as well towards Nirbhaya. Following the uproar in Nirbhaya case, the Parliament had passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Bill in 2015 that directs trying juveniles above the age of 16 accused of heinous crimes, as adults. Many of the recommendations submitted by the Justice J S Verma-led committee with late Justice Leila Seth and Justice Gopal Subramaniam as members were rejected. One of the main recommendations was to review AFSPA that has been used as a pretext for carrying out brutal sexual abuses in Kashmir and north eastern states. It was in these same days of the SC verdict in the Nirbhaya case, that the repressive law was imposed by the authorities in Assam. The Supreme Court had ordered an investigation in the existing cases in Manipur including one in which a woman Thangjam Manorama was mercilessly raped and killed by the senior officers in Assam Rifles. But the Centre has submitted a review petition citing that it would hamper the functioning of the army.
Deputy Jailer Varsha Dongre posted at Raipur Central Jail in Chhattisgarh was suspended from service for indiscipline the same day. She had revealed that the private parts of young tribal girls accused of Maoist links were electrocuted. Such incidents compel us to believe that public conscience is moved and punishment awarded only after considering the caste, religious and social factors of the victims and their predators in sexual violence cases. It’s a denial of justice not only towards Nirbhaya but also towards each and every man and woman in the country who aspire law and order as well as peace.