Do the men convicted for gang-raping Bilkis Bano and killing 14 members of her family in front of her eyes deserve the leniency they have been accorded, Bano’s counsel Advocate Shobha Gupta asked the Supreme Court of India on Monday.
She was arguing that the punishment befalling the convicts ought to be proportional to the nature and seriousness of the crime committed by them, Live Law reported.
“I want to highlight the crimes themselves and the way they have been executed. Bilkis herself was brutally gang-raped multiple times while she was five months pregnant. Her first child was smashed on a rock to death. Her mother and a cousin was gang-raped and murdered. Four minor brothers and sisters of Bilkis were murdered. Her cousin’s two-day-old baby was murdered. Aunts and uncles, other cousins…murdered,” she said.
A bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan was hearing pleas against the decision of the Gujarat BJP government to grant remission to the 11 Hindutva men who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for multiple murders and violent sexual assault during the 2002 Muslim genocide in Gujarat. On 15 August 2022, on Independence Day, the convicts were allowed to walk free after their application for remission of the sentence was approved by the BJP government.
“This is not a spur-of-moment incident. The convicts were chasing them, trying to find out where they had hidden. They were bloodthirsty. The bodies that could be recovered…The heads and chests were smashed. Only seven could be found since the place of the incident was not protected,” Gupta said, pointing that Bilkis and her family had attempted to flee once the genocide broke out in Gujarat in 2002. They were on the run from February 28, till March 3, when the family was slaughtered in a brutal manner.
“The conviction says that there have been 14 deaths and three gang rapes,” she added.
Apart from technical factors like the lack of an application of mind, and arbitrariness, the nature of the crimes itself was an important consideration when deciding the question of remission, she told the top court, according to Live Law.
She went on to say: “Bilkis saw her first child’s head being smashed on a stone. She kept pleading to the attackers because she was from the same locality as them. That is why she could name them. She knew them because they were from the locality. But they showed her or her family no mercy…Are these people – the perpetrators who have been found guilty of committing these crimes – deserving of the leniency shown to them?”