Bilkis Bano case: Ex-NHRC member Sujata Manohar terms decision to release 11 convicts as ‘dilution of rule of law’
Former Supreme Court judge Sujata Manohar, who was a member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) when the body intervened on behalf of Bilkis Bano in 2003, sought the release of 11 convicts in the 2002 gang rape and murder case from Gujarat. Government’s decision. The riots were “undermining the rule of law”.
The decision to release the convicts, especially in such a case cannot be made arbitrarily. When a court has convicted and sentenced him, releasing him arbitrarily undermines the rule of law,” the former judge told indianexpress.com.
On 15 August, 11 convicts walked out of jail after a Gujarat government panel granted them remission of a life sentence. Bilkis Bano, who was pregnant at the time, was gang-raped and her three-year-old daughter Saleha was one of 14, who was killed by mobs during the violence that broke out across Gujarat on March 3, 2002, following the attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra in Dahod was killed. 59 passengers were killed, mainly kar sevaks.
Significantly, in 2003, it was the significant intervention of the NHRC that ensured legal aid for Bano to approach the Supreme Court after the Gujarat Police closed the case.
The human rights body under former Chief Justice of India JS Verma had met him in March 2002 while visiting a relief camp in Godhra. Justice Manohar was then a member of the commission, which appointed senior advocate and former Solicitor General Harish Salve. To represent him before the Supreme Court.
Salve argued for a fresh investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and, later, for the transfer of the trial from Gujarat to Mumbai. Bano’s case was the only case related to the Gujarat riots that the CBI had investigated afresh.
“It is very sad to see the matter taking this turn. We want to empower women but we do not ensure adequate protection for them. This relaxation does not give a proper message on the safety of women,” Justice Manohar said.