Bilkis Bano Case: Why Top Officer's Garland Comment Is Problematic

While hearing the Bilkis Bano case in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Additional Solicitor General of India SV Raju asked, "What is wrong with garlanding a family member who comes out of jail?"

Kalyani Ganesan
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While hearing the Bilkis Bano case in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Additional Solicitor General of India SV Raju asked, "What is wrong with garlanding a family member who comes out of jail?"

A two-judge bench comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and Ujjal Bhuyan was hearing a petition filed by Bilkis Bano along with a clutch of public interest litigation challenging the Gujarat Government’s decision to grant remission to 11 convicts who were sentenced to life imprisonment for gangrapes and murders of Bilkis Bano’s family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Centre Law Officer On Bilkis Bano Case

The Additional Solicitor General’s remark came in response to the submissions made by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, who appeared on behalf of a PIL petitioner, regarding the manner in which the convicts were welcomed on their release before their sentence term.

Jaising said that the convicts were garlanded and felicitated upon their release from prison. "There’s denial that a crime was committed," stated Jaising.

Bilkis Bano’s counsel, advocate Shobha Gupta, argued that the government failed to consider the societal impact of the premature release of the rapists and other relevant factors that were required under the law.

She said the convicts didn’t show any remorse and weren't even bothered to pay the fines they were asked to. Gupta pointed out the diabolic nature of the crime, which included three gangrapes and the murder of 14 people, including kids, amidst the 2002 Gujarat riots, motivated solely by religious hate.


Did The Officers Forget The Henious Nature Of The Crime?

The ASG asked if it was wrong to garland family members who come out of prison. Wait, did someone forget why these men went to prison? How can a law officer ask something like this? In what world is it fair to arrange such a grand welcome for rapists and murderers? They brutally gang-raped a pregnant woman and killed several people, including children, motivated solely by religious hate. Is that something they should be "celebrated" and "facilitated" for?

As though it wasn’t heartbreaking enough that the convicts of such a heinous crime were released before the completion of their term, it was held that these men belonged to a certain "community" and would not have committed such crimes. This statement questions the entire legitimacy of the case. The convicts were welcomed with garlands, sweets, and hugs, and young people touched their feet to get their blessings. Are those men social activists who went to prison fighting for the welfare of people to receive such a grand welcome?

It takes abundant courage and determination for a woman in India to open up about being sexually assaulted. Despite the threats, humiliation, and scrutiny, Balkis Bano fought a six-year-long battle, after which these rapist murderers were sentenced to life imprisonment. Is this what she gets in return?

What Kind Of Societal Impact Does This Have?

If a third person like me was heavily distressed by the news, I could not even begin to realise the excruciating pain, trauma, and stress Bilkis Bano and her family would have been experiencing. The eleven convicts were released last year as the country celebrated its 75th independence anniversary. It has been almost a year, and the convicts are living a normal life while Bilkis Bano and her family are living in constant agony.


Didn’t anyone in power think of the societal impact this would cause? What kind of message does this leave for criminals and potential perpetrators? We already live in a society where many men don’t fear the law and believe they can evade punishment using loopholes. Won’t this judgement reiterate the notion that criminals can manage to get away with their wrongdoings? Won’t this distort the belief that people, especially women and the minority community, have in the law?

Suggested Reading: Public Outcry In Bilkis Bano Case Won't Affect Judicial Decision: SC

Views expressed by the author are their own

Bilkis Bano case Centre Law Officer