Telangana

Telangana IAS officer’s comments on Bilkis Bano case trigger row

Sabharwal's comments divided the netizens. While some hailed her courage for speaking out, others trolled her for being 'selective' and for speaking like a 'politician'.

Hyderabad: Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s secretary and senior IAS officer Smita Sabharwal’s tweets on the release of 11 convicts in Bilkis Bano rape case in Gujarat has triggered a row in Telangana.

Sabharwal’s comments divided the netizens. While some hailed her courage for speaking out, others trolled her for being ‘selective’ and for speaking like a ‘politician’.

In an apparent response to the trolls, the IAS officer suggested that the civil service should be ungagged.

It all started three days ago when Sabharwal took to Twitter to express her views on the release of the 11 convicts by the Gujarat government.

“As a woman and a civil servant, I sit in disbelief on reading the news on the Bilkis Bano case. We cannot snuff out her right to breathe free without fear again and call ourselves a free nation #JusticeForBilkisBano,” she wrote.

She posted a statement released by Bilkis Bano pleading with the Gujarat government to ensure her safety.

The 2001 batch IAS officer also retweeted a cartoon that took a dig at the release of the convicts and economist Kaushik Basu’s tweet stating garlanding rape convicts and distributing celebratory sweets “was a matter of global shame for India”.

The IAS officer received support from many for speaking out. Sanjiv Gupta, IAS officer of 1985 batch and former secretary to government of India in the Home Ministry, praised her.

“Kudos for speaking ur mind openly & clearly on this shocker. A bureaucrat can express his/her opinion as Social Media is personal space. Even while in service, I spoke my mind out freely subject to norms. Now, I’ve raised many legal issues in #BilkisBanoCase,” he tweeted

There were others who found fault with Sabharwal’s remarks. They said she was being ‘selective’ and cited some other rape cases, including the recent gang-rape of a minor in Hyderabad in which sons of leaders of TRS and AIMIM were allegedly involved.

The critics wanted her to speak on the release of the accused in the Hyderabad gang-rape case.

“Selective outrage is bad. She has to speak about AIMIM MLA’s son who got bail for raping a girl in Hyderabad,” wrote a Twitter user.

The BJP dubbed her reaction as selective and questioned her silence on several incidents of human rights violations.

There were others who questioned Sabharwal for expressing her opinion despite being a serving IAS officer.

In an apparent response to this, the officer suggested to the Centre to allow IAS officers to view their views.

“On the same note, is it not time to Ungag us, the #civilservice. We give the best years of our life learning and unlearning our pride that is #India. We are informed stakeholders.. then Why this ?? #FreedomOfSpeech,” she wrote.

The IAS officer referred to freedom of expression to government employees as mentioned in Rule 9 of Central Civil Services (conduct) Rules 1964, the subsection (i) of which says no government servant shall make any statement of fact or opinion in any form of communication which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Central government or state government.

Telangana’s ruling party TRS has already voiced its outrage over the release of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case.

Telangana Legislative Council member Kalvakuntla Kavitha on Friday write to Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, requesting him to intervene so that the release of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case is withdrawn immediately.

Bilkis Bano was 21 and was pregnant when the incident took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots. On August 15, Gujarat government released the 11 persons convicted in the case.

“Crimes such as rape shake the very core of our social conscience and seeing convicted rapists walk out freely on a day such as our Independence Day sends shivers down the spine of every woman and indeed every citizen who places their faith in the laws of the land and the justice system of our country,” wrote Kavitha, who is the daughter of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.

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