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Letter to SC: Bilkis Bano hearing riddled with 'delaying tactics, procedural subterfuge'

Counterview Desk 

An open letter to the Supreme Court, floated by well-known women rights leaders, academics and activists*, has regretted that one is watching with desperation and rage the proceedings in the Supreme Court on Bilkis Bano's appeal against the early release of 11 convicts who destroyed her life. 
Seeking wider support, they said, while thousands have pleaded to the Supreme Court for justice to Bilkis, "Today we are watching with increasing alarm the blatant attempt being made to try and subvert justice in the highest court of the land. We see with distress how delaying tactics and procedural subterfuge are being deployed."
"We ask Your Lordship and Your Ladyship, if the Supreme Court is not allowed to hear a matter, then where should an aggrieved woman in this country go?", the letter, endorsed by over 3,500 women and concerned citizens, wondered.

Text:

  • “It’s obvious that they don’t want us to hear the matter… that is more than obvious.” Justice KM Joseph while hearing Bilkis Bano’s Petition in the Supreme Court, May 2, 2023
  • Concerned citizens and women of india stand with Bilkis Bano in her quest for justice.
  • Seek immediate hearing of her appeal against early release of 11 convicts.
  • Ask “if the Supreme Court is not allowed to hear such a matter, where should an aggrieved woman in this country go?”
Nearly a year ago, on August 15, 2022 as the nation woke to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its independence, 11 convicted gang-rapists and murderers who had destroyed Bilkis Bano’s life - raped her, left her for dead, murdered her family and her 3 year old daughter before her eyes - walked free; men convicted of unspeakable acts of bestiality and terror against women and infants, were gifted an early release.
After two days of stunned silence, Bilkis found her voice, and on August 17, 2022 she wrote an anguished letter to the world asking: how justice for any woman could end like this? She wrote that she was numb. She said her faith in justice was shaken. She wrote that her sorrow and her wavering faith was not for herself alone but for every woman struggling for justice in courts.
In this moment of devastation, when all seemed lost, thousands of ordinary citizens and women of India, came forward to rescue the idea of justice for women in India. They stood like rock with Bilkis.
6,000 citizens wrote an appeal to the Supreme Court of India on August 18, 2022, urging it to take suo moto cognizance, revoke this immoral and unconscionable remission order, restore their faith, and restore justice to Bilkis Bano.
8,500 people from Bombay wrote to the Supreme Court of India expressing their horror at such impunity being granted to rapists and murderers. 10,000 citizens wrote an Open Letter to the then Honorable Chief Justice of India, on August 23, 2022, appealing to him to act. 40,000 citizens from 29 districts of Karnataka also wrote to the then Honourable Chief Justice of India on October 3, 2022, to undo this grave miscarriage of justice.
In this moment of devastation, when all seemed lost, thousands of ordinary citizens and women of India stood like rock with Bilkis
This unprecedented outpouring of support held Bilkis. It gave her the courage and strength to stand up, walk, and knock once again, as she had done so many times before, on the doors of justice. So, Bilkis Bano approached the Supreme Court, once again. She kept her faith, once again. She has waited, once again.
Today we, citizens of this country, are watching with increasing alarm the blatant attempt being made to try and subvert justice in the highest court of the land. We see with distress how delaying tactics and procedural subterfuge are being deployed to try and stall and derail court proceedings. And we see Bilkis Bano still waiting, still hopeful, and still not being heard. On May 2, 2023, Justice K M Joseph who, along with Justice BV Nagarathna, is hearing the matter, said in open court - “It is obvious that they don’t want us to hear the matter … that is more than obvious.” 
At this crucial juncture in Bilkis’ long journey to justice, we appeal to the Supreme Court of India to hear Bilkis Bano’s plea without further delay. If the Supreme Court is not allowed to hear a matter, then where should an aggrieved woman in this country go?
We appeal to the Supreme Court to listen to a woman who has kept her faith with the justice system for 20 long years. Let that faith not stand betrayed. August 15, 2023, is not far away. It will be one year too long of grave injustice to Bilkis and to every rape survivor in this country. Let us truly celebrate faith this coming Independence Day; faith that the idea of justice is still alive for women in this country.
---
*Kavita Srivastava, President, Peoples' Union for Civil Liberties; Maya Krishna Rao, Theatre Artist, Goa; Irfan Habib, Emeritus Professor, Aligarh Muslim University; Chayanika Shah, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Bombay; Hasina Khan, Bebaak Collective; Dipta Bhog, Educator, Delhi; Navsharan Singh, writer, researcher and activist, Delhi; Apoorvanand, Academic and Writer, Delhi; Madhu Bhushan, Gamana Mahila Samuha, Bengaluru; Malini Ghosh, Independent Researcher, Delhi; Anjali Bhardwaj, Social Activist, Delhi; Vani Subramanian, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre, Delhi; Purwa Bharadwaj, Educator and Writer, Delhi; Nivedita Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi; Shakun Doundiyakhed. Gamana Mahila Samuha, Bengaluru; Amrita Johri, Social Activist, Delhi. The letter has been endorsed by more than 3,500 women and concerned citizens

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