The Bombay High Court on Thursday upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 12 people in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case. The court also set aside the acquittal of seven persons including policemen and doctors. The CBI had demanded death sentence for three convicts but the court rejected the appeal.
The case dates back to 2002 when 5-month pregnant Bilkis (then 19 years old) was gang-raped during the Gujarat riots which started after the Godhra train burning incident. The incident happened when Bilkis was on her way to escape the violence on a truck along with 17 family members, including her two-year-old daughter. An armed mob stopped the truck and killed 14 members, including her daughter, mother and a cousin. The mob Bilkis was also gang-raped by three members of the mob.
Bilkis Bano Gangrape incident was one of the most horrifying incidents that took place during the riots. For 15 years, Bilkis fought for justice with the help of an NGO, local police, and CBI. The name of the convicts are: Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana.
The CBI had sought enhancement of punishment for three of them- Jaswantbhai, Govindbhai and Radhesham Shah— on the grounds that they had raped Bilkis.
The convicts had challenged the order on three main grounds — a) All evidence in the case was fabricated by CBI; b) Bilkis gave birth to a child after the incident, proving she couldn’t have been gang raped; c) Police failed to find the bodies of some of her family members, proving they were not killed.
Here is the timeline of the Bilkis Bano Gangrape case:
2016: Bombay High Court reserved its judgment in the appeals filed by 11 persons convicted in the case and also the appeal filed by CBI for capital punishment to three of them.
January 21, 2008: A special court convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men for gangraping Bilkis and murdering seven of her family members in the aftermath of the Godhra riots.
The convicts had later approached the high court in Mumbai, challenging their conviction and sought for the trial court’s order to be quashed and set aside.
August 2004: Case trial shifted from Ahmedabad to Mumbai by Supreme Court after Bilkis expressed apprehensions that witnesses could be harmed and CBI evidence tampered.
2002-2003: Local police refused to register a case and threatened Bilkis with dire consequences if she decided to proceed with the matter. Bilkis then approached the National Human Rights Commission of India and submitted a petition in the Supreme Court. The apex court directed the CBI to start a probe into the matter.
March 3, 2002: Bilkis Bano’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad during the post-Godhra riots and seven members of her family were killed. Bilkis, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang raped while six other members of her family managed to escape from the mob.