The Supreme Court Monday dismissed the appeals of two doctors and four policemen including an IPS officer challenging their conviction by the Bombay High Court in the sensational 2002 Bilkis Bano case, saying there was “clear-cut evidence” against them. A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao, while rejecting their appeals, said the trial court had unreasonably acquitted them.
“You all have been unreasonably acquitted by the trial court in the case despite there being clear-cut evidence against you,” the bench said while dismissing three appeals. IPS officer R S Bhagora, currently serving in Gujarat, was recently convicted along with four other policemen by the High Court, overturning the trial court order acquitting them.
The Bombay High Court had on May 4 reversed the trial court verdict acquitting Bhagora and others and upheld the conviction of 11 people (one convict is dead) in the Bilkis Bano gangrape and murder case. One policeman Idris Abdul Sayed has not appealed against his conviction.
Counsel for Bhagora said he was unnecessarily caught in the web of circumstances and had no direct role in the incident. The bench, however, refused to go into the matter saying Bhagora was the supervising officer in the case and everything happened under his nose.
Advocate Shobha, appearing for Bilkis Bano, opposed the appeals of the convicts. The High Court bench had convicted seven persons — five policemen and two doctors — under sections 218 (not performing their duties) and section 201 (tampering of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The apex court had on May 30 refused to stay the conviction of Bhagora.
A vacation bench of Justices A K Sikri and Deepak Gupta said there was no urgency for hearing the matter as the convicted officer had already undergone the sentence. A special court had on 21 January 2008 convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men for raping Bilkis and murdering seven of her family members in the aftermath of the Godhra riots, while acquitting seven persons including the policemen and doctors.
The convicts later approached the Bombay high court challenging their conviction and sought quashing and setting aside of the trial court. The CBI had also filed an appeal in the high court seeking harsher punishment of death for three of the convicted persons on the ground that they were the main perpetrators of the crime.
According to the prosecution, on 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. The trial in the case began in Ahmedabad.
However, after Bilkis expressed apprehensions that the witnesses could be harmed and the CBI evidence tampered with, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.
The convicts had challenged the order on three main grounds — that all evidence in the case was fabricated by CBI, that Bilkis gave birth to a child after the incident, proving that she could not have been gang raped, and the failure to find the bodies of some of her family members which proved that they were not killed.