India’s Supreme Court on Monday directed the state government of Gujarat to pay 5 million Indian rupees (US$ 70,000) in two weeks as compensation to Bilkis Bano, a 40-year-old woman who was raped by a mob during an anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002.
In April the court had ordered the Gujarat government to compensate Bano monetarily. It had also instructed the state to give her government employment and a house in a locality of her choosing. This is the highest compensation ever given to a rape survivor in India.
The Gujarat government had initially promised to follow the apex court’s order but told a three-judge bench on Monday that it intended to file a review petition. The bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, gave the state two weeks to comply with the decision.
Bilkis Bano was raped and 14 members of her family, including her 3-year-old daughter, were murdered in March 2002 when a lynch mob attacked a Muslim community in Gujarat’s Dahod district. Bano faced an uphill battle for justice as the state police allegedly refused to cooperate with her and suppressed evidence. After police dismissed the case against her assailants, she approached the National Human Rights Commission of India and petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a reinvestigation. The Supreme Court directed a federal agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to carry out an investigation, following which the case was transferred outside of Gujarat.
In 2005 a special court in the state of Maharashtra indicted 19 individuals, including police officers, for rape and suppressing evidence. In January 2008, 11 people were sentenced to life imprisonment on multiple counts of rape and murder, and a policeman was convicted of falsifying evidence. Seven others were acquitted.
In 2017 the Bombay High Court upheld the trial court’s decision partially by affirming terms of life imprisonment given to the 11 individuals convicted. The court also set aside the acquittal of the remaining seven accused in the case, including Gujarat police officers and doctors of a government hospital, who were convicted of suppressing evidence.