The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the death penalty awarded to 4 convicts involved in the brutal Nirbhaya gangrape case. When the verdict was announced, the judges explained that the case falls in the “rarest of the rare” category because of which it has to be justified with a capital punishment in India.

While the majority of the people have lauded the apex court for the restoration of justice, there has been criticism from some quarters where it is being said that the verdict in this case was partial in comparison to that of the Bilkis Bano rape case.

On May 4, 2017, a day before the Nirbhaya verdict, the Bombay High Court  awarded life imprisonment to 12 people in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case while setting aside the acquittal of seven persons including policemen and doctors. The court also dismissed an appeal filed by CBI seeking death penalty for three of the convicts.

The court while announcing the verdict said, “We also cannot be unmindful of the fact that the incident occurred in 2002, fifteen years have elapsed since then. These accused have been in custody all this while. Looking to this fact, after a gap of 15 years, we are not inclined to enhance the sentence.”

b’Bilkis Bano | Source: PTI’

What is the Bilkis Bano case?

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad during the post-Godhra riots and seven members of her family (including her three year old daughter) were killed.

Bilkis, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang-raped while six other members of her family managed to escape from the mob. 

What is the controversy about?

After the Nirbhaya verdict came out, many started questioning why weren’t the convicts in the Bilkis Bano rape case awarded death penalty and were only given life imprisonment.

b”Nirbhaya’s parents | Source: PTI”

CPM politburo member Brinda Karat lauded the Nirbhaya verdict but told The Times of India about the judiciary’s ‘double standards’.

 “The SC judgment upholding the death sentences of Nirbhaya’s rapists and murderers comes a day after the Mumbai High Court refused a CBI plea to hang those who were found guilty of Bilkis Bano’s gangrape and the murder of seven others, including two children. Now will the Supreme Court, in the light of the Nirbhaya case, call for that file? Or will they, when they are appealed to, change the Mumbai High Court’s verdict and hang them? This subjective reasoning cannot work.”

There were many reactions against it on Twitter by several journalists, politicians  as well as public

What Bilkis Bano had to say about the verdict?

Bano said that she will continue to fight so that her perpetrators are given death penalty. 

Her husband Yakub lauded the death given in the December 16 gang rape and said that such cases will act as a deterrent to future crimes, reports Hindustan Times.