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Updated:May 10, 2017
 
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If justice was noticeably swift for India in the 2012 Delhi gang rape case, its delivery in the case of Bilkis Bano's gang rape in 2002 Gujarat was notable from another point of view. Timewise, it took 15 years; that it was delivered at last has to be credited to the extraordinary strength and trust of Ms Bano herself, together with that of her family and friends, most of whom have been repeatedly threatened. 
 
But the fact that the Bombay High Court upheld the life imprisonment of 11 of the accused was not the only thing that vindicated her trust; the court has also convicted five policemen and two doctors, let off by the lower court, for their roles in covering up for the criminals. This is possibly the first time in the history of India's sectarian violence that policemen have been convicted. The judiciary's recognition of police complicity, apart from reassuring Ms Bano herself, also points to official acknowledgment of State support for the Gujarat killings. 
 
Against the backdrop of better treatment accorded to the policemen accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati encounter cases, or the many other cases including that of the murder of the former parliamentarian from the Congress, Ehsan Jafri, in the Gulbarg Society massacre, in which not just the police but the most powerful politicians were let off the hook, this judgment is truly remarkable.
The judgment's importance must also be seen in the context of the present, when murders and violence occur regularly with covert State patronage. Even Ms Bano's dignified assertion of trust in the justice system is a lesson for the times: she did not want revenge, only justice. But this context also includes the Supreme Court judgment on the 2012 Delhi gang rape case. It offers a larger perspective that cannot be ignored.
 
 Being one of the "rarest of rare" cases, the four criminals in the 2012 case have been condemned to death. Ms Bano's gang rape when she was a pregnant 19-year-old, the murder of her little girl and 14 members of her family with other infants may not be rare among the kind of hate crimes that ravaged Gujarat in 2002. But the two sentences, juxtaposed, have revived the debate over the problems of capital punishment and India's acceptance of it.
 
Telegraph, May 10, 2017
 
 
 
 
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