Opposition Congress and human rights activists today welcomed the judgement of the Bombay High Court in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case, saying that all victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots should get justice. Activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been fighting for the victims of post-Godhra communal violence through her organisation Citizen for Justice and Peace, noted that apart from upholding the conviction of the lower court, the HC set aside the acquittal of five policemen.
She, however, said that she never supported the CBI’s plea for death penalty to three of the convicts and lauded the court for dismissing it. “We had in any case argued against death penalty. The fact that the court has upheld the conviction and also convicted five policemen is a welcome judgement,” she said.
Opposition Congress in Gujarat said that all victims should get justice. “We had always demanded that the victims should get justice. And justice should be done. We would not like to make any further comment on the judgement of the High Court, but we would say, ‘der aaye. durust aaye’ (better late than never),” Congress’ national spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said.
Gujarat cabinet minister and BJP leader Rajendra Trivedi, who has been in the past involved in legal proceedings related to several riots cases as a practising lawyer, refused to comment on the development. “I was not involved in the case, so I cannot comment on this,” he said
The Bombay High Court today upheld a trial court’s sentence awarding life imprisonment to 12 people in the case while setting aside the acquittal of seven persons including policemen and doctors. The court also dismissed an appeal filed by CBI seeking death penalty for three of the convicts.
According to the prosecution, on March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano’s family was attacked by a group of persons at Randhikpur village in Dahod district when they were fleeing to escape a marauding mob during the post-Godhra riots. While Bilkis, who was five months pregnant, was gang- raped, seven members of her family were killed. Six others escaped.