After resisting tooth and nail any probe by an independent agency into riot cases, the Gujarat government on Tuesday agreed to allow the Central Bureau of Investigation to inquire into the alleged gang rape of a pregnant woman during the post-Godhra riots.
Bilkis Yakoob Rasool had told the apex court that 'a group comprising 17 Muslim men, women and children, including the petitioner from Limkheda taluk of Dahod district, was trying to escape a mob, which was targeting members of minority community'.
"However, they were cornered at a secluded place near Panivala village. Members of the mob gang-raped and killed most women. The petitioner, then pregnant, was also raped and left to die by the mob," her petition said.
With legal assistance from the National Human Rights Commission, Bilkis had pointed out to the apex court that the Gujarat police had closed the rape case on technical grounds despite a medical examination clearly establishing that she had been sexually assaulted.
On September 8, the Supreme Court asked the Gujarat government and its Home Department to file its reply to a petition by Bilkis seeking a CBI probe into the manner in which the police had closed the case.
Her counsel, Harish Salve, said the police chose to file a closure report before the trial court on the grounds of contradictions in the statements of Bilkis despite the victim giving clear information, in the FIR, about the accused.
On another complaint that the Gujarat police was harassing Bilkis on one pretext or the other even going to the extent of calling on her late at night, the apex court had directed the Gujarat police to "keep off" the riot victim "till the court decided on her plea for transfer of the probe to the CBI."
Gujarat Additional Solicitor General Mukul Rohatgi conceded before a bench comprising Justice S Rajendra Babu, Justice AR Lakshmanan and Justice G P Mathur that the state government would order a CBI probe into the incident, which occurred six days after the train carnage at Godhra had sparked off statewide riots.
However, he clarified that the probe would be limited to the case involving Bilkis and 'without prejudice' to the State's stand that the Gujarat police were fully competent to probe it.The bench adjourned the hearing after directing the CBI to file a status report of its probe within eight weeks.