Bilkis Bano gangrape case verdict: Bombay HC convicts 5 Gujarat cops, 2 doctors, upholds life for 11

Bilkis Bano gangrape verdict case: The Bombay High Court also convicted police officers who were found guilty in the case.

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | New Delhi | Updated: May 5, 2017 5:45 am
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THE BOMBAY High Court on Thursday upheld the life imprisonment of 11 men convicted for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and murder of her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The court also set aside the acquittal of the remaining seven accused in the case, including Gujarat police officers and doctors of a government hospital, who were charged with suppressing and tampering with evidence.

A total of 18 people now stand convicted in the case.

Sentenced by a trial court in Mumbai in 2008, the 11 men had challenged their conviction in the Bombay High Court. The CBI had also filed an appeal seeking death sentence for three of the accused. The court dismissed both the appeals.

“We 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 at this fact, after a gap of 15 years, we are not inclined to enhance the sentence,” said a division bench of Justices V K Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar.

The bench, however, allowed the appeal filed by the prosecution against the acquittal of seven men — five policemen and two doctors — who now stand convicted for not performing their duties (under Section 218 of the IPC) and tampering of evidence (Section 201).

The court observed that all the police personnel from Limkheda who attended to Bilkis were either accused or examined by the defence as defence witnesses, and none of them supported the prosecution’s case.

bilkis bano, Bilkis Bano gangrape verdict case, bilkis bano case, gujarat riots bilkis bano case, Bilkis Bano gangrape Bilkis Bano and her husband Yakub in Devgarh Baria on Thursday. (Express Photo: Bhupendra Rana)

“In this case, the truth and falsehood are mixed up in such a manner that at every stage of the evidence, the truth is hidden under layers of intentional laxity, omissions, contradictions and falsehood, and the truth is required to be unearthed,” said the court.

Pointing to lapses by the police in the investigation and by the doctors in carrying out the post-mortems, the court said: “We do not require any other proof to infer that police from Limkheda police station wanted to suppress the fact of rape committed on Bilkis. They wanted to screen the perpetrators of the crime for reasons best known to the police.”

Bilkis’s supplementary statement was not recorded as soon as the police were informed of the rape, the court said, adding that the police had “gagged the mouth of Bilkis so that her cry for justice would not be heard by anybody”.

The court observed that Bilkis was not sent for medical examination on the day that she reported the incident. “This corroborates the case of Bilkis that she disclosed that she was raped and injured, but with a view to suppress the fact, she was not sent for medical examination on that day. She stayed overnight in the police station and was sent the next day for medical examination,” said Justice Tahilramani.

“She is the informant and a victim, and relative of the deceased but was not taken to the spot for identification of the spot or bodies. No close relatives were also taken there,” said the court.

The bench said Identification of the bodies was the first step in the investigation. “The police have conducted the post-mortem hurriedly, buried the dead bodies with sacks full of salt, so that the bodies will decompose faster,” said the court.

About the doctors, the HC said, “It is evident that they were not only casual in conducting the post-mortem but suppressed material information by way of omission… Prima facie, one may feel that medical officers are not concerned with the investigation and therefore, they are innocent. However, in our considered opinion and after close scrutiny of the evidence, we could read between the lines which show that the medical officers have completely failed to perform the post-mortem of all the bodies as is expected under the law… In the inquest panchanama, the doctors have only mentioned injury to private parts of one deceased. On perusal of the photographs, one can easily make out that the females were sexually abused when they were put to death.”

On March 3, 2002, just days after the burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra station, Bilkis Bano, then 19 years old and five months pregnant, was escaping mobs of rioters along with her family, on board a truck. She was accompanied by 17 others, including a two-year-old daughter.

Their truck was attacked by an armed mob in Randhikpur village of Dahod district. Fourteen members of her family were killed, including her daughter, mother Halima and cousin Shamim. Bilkis was gangraped and left for dead.

Unable to get a case registered with the local police, Bilkis approached the National Human Rights Commission and petitioned the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court directed the CBI to investigate the case. As threats mounted, the family requested the SC to move the case outside Gujarat. The SC then shifted the case to Maharashtra.

Charges were filed against 19 men in a Mumbai trial court. In January 2008, 11 were sentenced to life imprisonment for gangrape and murder. The CBI filed an appeal seeking death penalty for three convicts — Jaswantbai Nai, Govindbhai Nai and Radhesham Shah — charged with planning and executing the crime.

Setting aside the plea for enhancement of punishment, the court said the “entire evidence of Bilkis has to be read in the background of the riots and anti-Muslim atmosphere at Godhra”.

“At the time of investigation, the CBI found that the concerned police personnel of Limkheda police station who were involved in the initial investigation were not only negligent, but deliberately tried to screen the offenders and have also caused disappearance of the evidence of the offence and gave false information to screen the offenders,” said the court.

The convicted policemen and doctors are Narpat Singh, Idris Abdul Saiyed, Bikabhai Patel, Ramsingh Bhabhor, Ramanbhai Bhagora, Dr Arun Kumar Prasad and Dr Sangeeta Kumar Prasad.

The period these seven convicts spent in jail earlier will be seen as their sentence, said the court. Each of them will also have to pay a fine of Rs 20,000 within eight weeks.

In a statement to the media, Bilkis said: “My rights, as a human being, as a citizen, woman, and mother were violated in the most brutal manner, but I had trust in the democratic institutions of our country. Now, my family and I feel we can begin to lead our lives again, free of fear. I am happy that the state and its officials who emboldened, encouraged, and protected the criminals who destroyed the life of an entire community, are no longer unblemished, but today stand charged with tampering of evidence. For officers of the state, whose sworn duty is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame, to bear forever.”

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    Elliot Chloe
    May 9, 2017 at 5:11 am
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    Reply
    1. A
      Afzal Ahmad
      May 5, 2017 at 6:55 pm
      Better late than never. However, other cases including that of Zakia Jafri should be expeditiously and judiciously decided (irrespective of the persons involved) to restore the confidence of citizens in Judiciary, Government and its governance. Strange: in Nirbhaya's case, rape and murder of only one girl and four culprits have been given death sentence but in Bilkis Bano case rape and murder of 14 persons but no death sentence. The SC should should re-examine the case and Like Nirbhaya's case, these culprits should also be given death sentence. Why should there be any discrimination?
      Reply
      1. M
        meriawaazsunoa
        May 5, 2017 at 4:48 pm
        These people should be hanged publicly ! who ever it may be ! A crime should be punishable by the law of the land ! the main culprit who gave the free hand is still at large , which cannot be proved in court of law ! we call this guy as PM ,,, we all know his role in riots , we have not forgotten, will not be forgotten , when the historian write the history ,he will be identified as one of the perpetrator , collaborator , and executioner of this heinous crime in the history of india,, today he may be strong , sooner or later the day will come ,wherein he will see the dust of his prestige. Equally responsible are Police ,judiciary and to some doctors . the police are hand-in-gloves in crime, they should be punished as per the law and set an example to others,,,,, JAI HO CONS UTION" JAI HO INDIA
        Reply
        1. P
          Parantap Bhatt
          May 5, 2017 at 4:28 pm
          The hypocrisy of the hindutva brigade is open for all to see in this comment section. Instead of acknowledging the heinous crime committed against Bilkis Bano, they don't have the gall to address this issue or criticize the perpetrators openly. This shows, how "peace loving and kind" they are. So they decide to bring up history, completely irrelevant to the context because of their inner inability to condemn the perpetrator, when it's of their own religion. YOu are not affected by human suffering, you are only affected by hatred of the other kaum. Ironically, exactly what you blame other muslims for.
          Reply
          1. R
            Ramaswami Vijayan
            May 5, 2017 at 10:15 am
            It is most unfortunate and shameful that a notorious organiser of Gujrat Riots in 2002 is the Prime Minister of India instead of being convicted and jailed. On March 3, 2002, just days after the burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra station, Bilkis Bano, then 19 years old and five months pregnant, was escaping mobs of rioters along with her family, on board a truck. She was accompanied by 17 others, including a two-year-old daughter. Their truck was attacked by an armed mob in hikpur village of Dahod district. Fourteen members of her family were killed, including her daughter, mother Halima and cousin Shamim. Bilkis was gangraped and left for dead.
            Reply
            1. K
              kempu
              May 5, 2017 at 10:18 pm
              Bilkis Bano's statement (issued through her lawyers) is worth recal : ". . the state & its officials who emboldened, encouraged & protected the criminals who destro the life of an entire community are no longer unblemished. . . " This is surely paltry recompense/satisfaction. . . Shri Vajpayee, then PM, who visited Gujarat in the wake of carnage, could only come up with a mild rebuke for Modi : "Follow raj dharma," counselled Shri Vajpayee. Instead of this "raj dharma" rhetoric, if Vajpayee ji had dismissed the Modi govt & ordered a SC-monitored investigation, then perhaps the w truth would have come out. But now the chief orchestrator of the Gujarat riots is becoming the chief architect of RSS-Hindu Rashtra. A massive, nation-wide movement of secular forces has to be organised to topple this "userpor of democracy & history" (Anand Patwardan).
              Reply
            2. M
              Moore Larry
              May 5, 2017 at 9:31 am
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              1. S
                Sajjad Quraishi
                May 5, 2017 at 9:31 am
                Kangaroo Court !
                Reply
                1. S
                  Sajjad Quraishi
                  May 5, 2017 at 9:27 am
                  Justice dela is Justice denied,
                  Reply
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