Bilkis Bano Rape Case: Bombay High Court upholds life term for 12, five cops to face trial

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday upheld the conviction and life sentence given to 12 people — one of them is dead — in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case and set aside the acquittal of seven others by a trial court, including policemen and doctors.

The court, however, rejected investigating agency CBI’s appeal seeking death penalty for three of the convicts — Govindbhai Nai (44), Jaswantbhai Nai (50) and Shailesh Bhatt (47). The court, however, allowed the CBI’s appeal against the acquittal of five policemen of Gujarat Police and two doctors of a Gujarat government-run hospital. The bench has convicted these public servants for destructing of evidence and also for manufacturing false records.

Bilkis welcomed the verdict saying, “My rights as a woman were violated in the most brutal way but I always had faith in the judiciary. The verdict has vindicated my position.”

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano and 16 others were attacked by a mob near Dahod district’s Devgarh Baria village in Gujarat following the Godhra train carnage. At least eight people from Bilkis’ family were killed and six others went missing. However, a pregnant Bilkis and two of her family members —Hussain and Sadaam — survived the carnage.

On Thursday, a division bench of Justices V.K. Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar in its 430-page judgement said while the probe conducted by Gujarat police was “flawed with a dishonest investigation”, the evidence and statements given by Bilkis Bano were “completely trustworthy”.

While dismissing the CBI’s appeal for stringent punishment, the bench had this to say: “We do agree that it is a rare massacre manifesting ugly animosity and hostility. From the clinching evidence placed before us we are convinced that all these accused persons in a mob on account of the Godhra incident were moving in search of Muslims. They were boiling with revenge. It was an unlawful assembly of the 12 accused. As soon as they saw the Muslims, they pounced upon them, assaulted them and also raped some women.”

The trial in the Bilkis Bano case began in Ahmedabad. However, after Bilkis expressed apprehension that witnesses could be harmed and evidence tampered with, the Supreme Court transferred the trial to Mumbai in August 2004.

Crime and Punishment

  • March 3, 2002 Bilkis Bano is raped and 14 of her family members killed post-Godhra riots in Gujarat
  • March 25, 2003 Case filed by Bano was dismissed by police on basis of lack of evidence
  • December 2003 Bano approaches NHRC and petitions Supreme Court seeking justice. SC orders CBI probe into the case
  • January 2004 CBI arrests all the accused
  • August 2004 Supreme Court moves the trial case from Gujarat to Mumbai and directs Centre to appoint a public prosecutor
  • January 2008 Trial court passes verdict in which 13 persons were convicted of criminal conspiracy, rape and murder. Eleven were sentenced to life imprisonment
  • January 2008 Accused files appeal in the HC challenging their conviction
  • July 2011 CBI moves HC seeking death penalty for three of the convicts
  • Septermber 2016 HC rejects application filed by lawyer of convicts seeking re-examination of some of the witnesses
  • October 2016 High Court rejects an intervention application filed by Bano
  • December 2016 Bombay HC reserves its order on appeals filed by 11 convicts against life sentence
  • May 5, 2017 Bombay High Court upholds life sentence order of trial court against 11 accused

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