Surprised over re-employment of doctors and policemen who had been convicted by the Bombay High Court for tampering with the evidences in the Bilkis Bano rape case, the Supreme Court of India has demanded answers from the Gujarat government.
During the Gujarat riots in 2002, Bilkis Bano was gang-raped and several of her family members were murdered. While the local police had closed the case, the apex court of India ordered a fresh probe on the case by CBI. Later, the CBI charged 18 people associated with the case, including five policemen and two doctors. Thereafter, the trial court acquitted 11 people, including the said policemen and doctors and awarded them life imprisonment. On CBI appeal in the case, the Bombay High Court had convicted seven of them.
Years after the acquittal, advocate Shobha drew the attention of a bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice D Y Chandrachud to the fact that, among the seven, two policemen and two doctors were re-employed by the Gujarat government despite their conviction.
The bench, in its turn, expressed surprise and asked:
How can a convicted person work in the police department or as doctors?
In response the advocate appearing for the state government, Hemantika Wahi, said that these officials had already undergone the sentence awarded to them, as a result of which they had been re-employed. She further said that the HC had ordered that the period of incarceration was sufficient punishment for them.
Despite her contention, the Supreme Court bench asked the state to file an affidavit explaining how it re-employed the convicted policemen and doctors in the face of the petitioner’s plea for departmental action against them for suppressing and tampering with evidence. The bench said:
The state will inform the court whether disciplinary action was initiated against the policemen and doctors in four weeks.
In the Bilkis Bano case as many as 14 people were murdered, though bodies of only 7 people were recovered by the police. Shobha let the court know that the rape survivor was awarded a meagre compensation of Rs 2000 by each culprit in the trial court, and that the HC did not increase the compensation at all. Thereafter, the bench said the petition filed in 2003 had sought a re-investigation into the case and that had been done. It said:
If the victim wants enhancement of compensation, she must challenge the HC order.