| Women offer prayers at the site of last month’s bomb blast near the Gateway of India in Mumbai on Thursday. (Reuters)
New Delhi, Sept. 25: The Supreme Court today again pulled up the Gujarat government in a riot case, ordering the state police to “keep off” a riot rape victim who had petitioned the apex court alleging police harassment.
The petitioner, Bilkis Yakub Rasool, had alleged that she was raped on March 3 last year, four days after the Godhra train carnage. Rasool said police were harassing her to “shut up” and had closed the case saying there were contradictions in her statement, even though a medical report had confirmed the rape.
A division bench of Justices S. Rajendra Babu and A.R. Lakshmanan told the Gujarat administration and police to “keep off” Rasool till it took a decision on her petition seeking to transfer the case from the state CB-CID to the CBI.
On September 8, the Supreme Court had issued notices to the Gujarat government and its home ministry on Rasool’s petition. The petitioner, a resident of Limkheda taluk in Dahod district, also sought a CBI inquiry into the state police’s closing of several rape cases. The court had also issued notice to the Dahod district police superintendent.
Harish Salve, senior counsel for Rasool, had told the court then that rape cases were being “pushed under the carpet” by the state police, which had rushed to close proceedings.
Salve today said the CID branch of Gujarat police was harassing his client. When he said police had closed the case despite a report confirming rape, the judges said: “It would be appropriate for the state police to keep off her (Rasool) till the court decides her plea for transfer of the case to the CBI.”
Rasool alleged that though the medical reports categorically stated that she had been sexually assaulted, police had closed the case for technical reasons.
Earlier this month, Rasool said she was part of a 17-member group of Muslims trying to escape a mob “targeting members of the minority community” last year. But they were cornered at a secluded place near Panivela village. “The mob (then) gangraped and killed most women. The petitioner, then pregnant, was also raped by the mob,” Rasool said.
The petitioner today said it was only after she urged the Supreme Court to transfer the case to the CBI that the Gujarat government ordered a probe by the CB-CID.
Counsel for Gujarat told the court that the CB-CID would probe the case from now.
Salve said Rasool was called by police for questioning at about 8 pm on September 16. She was told that she would be taken to Godhra to identify the “dead bodies”. But Rasool refused to do so, saying “no dead body” would still be on the spot after 18 months. She added: “After the matter has been taken by this honourable court (the Supreme Court), the state administration is trying to harass and terrorise the petitioner and her family members.”
“The petitioner is receiving threats from unknown persons and is being pressurised against pursuing her case in this honourable court. Therefore the petitioner had no choice except to shift out of the state along with her husband and child,” Rasool added.
Salve said it was “unfortunate that such a heinous crime is being pushed under the carpet” by Gujarat police, which had filed a closure report for the case before the Limkheda magistrate, pointing to contradictions in Rasool’s statements.
On being asked how long it would take the government to reply to the allegations, the Gujarat counsel told the Supreme Court it would respond within a week.