While committing the act, three women were raped and of them, Bano was five months pregnant.
Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Thursday rejected the appeals of all the 11 convicts against their conviction and punishment in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case. The high court not only upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of these 11 persons but also set aside the acquittal of five policemen and two doctors and convicted them for destruction of evidence.
The division bench of Justice V.K. Tahilramani and Justice Mridula Bhatkar termed the investigation done by the Limkheda police station (under whose jurisdiction place of incident fell) and Gujarat CID as “callous”. While holding policemen guilty of destruction of evidence, the bench observed, “This is a case where the police wanted to help the accused by suppressing their names. The police were not passive towards investigation but they were very active in destroying the case of the prosecutrix (Bano).”
The trial court had acquitted six policemen Narpatsingh Patel, Idris Sayed, Bhikabhai Patel, Ramsingh Bhabhor, Somabhai Gori and Ramabhai Bhagora and the high court convicted all of them except Gori, as he died while the appeal was pending in the HC. The court also held Dr Sangeeta Prasad and Dr Arun Prasad guilty of destruction of evidence but sentenced them for the period they have already undergone in prison in the past. The court has imposed a fine of Rs 55,000 each on the convicts and has directed that the fine amount deposited be paid to the victim (Bano) by way of compensation. The CBI had requested the high court to enhance the punishment of Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai and Shailesh Bhatt from life imprisonment to death. CBI counsel Hiten Venegaonkar and Arfan Sait for the state had argued before the court that this is not a case where leniency can be shown because it is a rarest of rare case because at one time, 14 helpless persons including children and women were brutally murdered by these accused
While committing the act, three women were raped and of them, Bano was five months pregnant and one more woman was in her advanced stage of pregnancy.
The bench in its order said, “We do agree that it is a rare massacre manifesting ugly animosity and hostility.” However, the bench also held, “We have carefully gone through the elaborate discussion of aggravated and mitigating circumstances and the principles laid down by the SC in a previous case. We do agree that the crime is uncommon and a large number of persons from the Muslim community were murdered, however, the sentencing policy is also required to be balanced on the scale of proportionality.”
The bench further said, “We also cannot be unmindful of the fact that the incident occurred in 2002, 15 years have elapsed since then. These accused have been in custody all this while. Looking to this fact, after a gap of 15 years, we are not inclined to enhance the sentence.”
Mar 3, 2002: Bilkis Bano and her family is attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village, Ahmedabad after Godhra riots. Seven members of her family are killed. Ms Bano, who was five months pregnant at the time, is gang-raped.
2002-2003: Local police refuses to register a case and threatens Ms Bano with dire consequences. Ms Bano approaches the NHRC, India and submits a petition in the Supreme Court. The apex court directs the CBI to start a probe into the matter.
Aug 2004: SC directs this trial to be shifted from Ahmedabad to Mumbai after Ms Bano expresses apprehension that witnesses could be harmed and evidence could be tampered.
Jan 21, 2008: A special court convicts and sentences to life imprisonment 11 accused.
2009: Accused approach the Bombay HC against their conviction.
Dec 2016: Bombay HC reserves its judgment in the appeals filed by the 11 convicts and also the appeal filed by CBI for capital punishment to three of them.