The Bombay High Court recently reserved its order in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case. The 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court in 2008 for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family members in the wake of the Godhra riots, had moved the High Court against their conviction.
While the Central Bureau of Investigation has sought death penalty for the three men convicted of raping Bilkis and killing her family members, the Maharashtra government has supported this stand.
Appearing for the CBI, Hiten Venegaonkar had argued that the present case was that of “mass murder” as 14 members of a family, including babies who were a few days old, were killed. The riots caused a situation of “exodus” and while the family was on the run, they were raped and murdered. Therefore the case belonged to the “rarest of rare” category and warranted the maximum punishment.
On the other hand, Harshad Ponda, senior advocate appearing for the convicts, had raised doubts on the chronology of the events narrated by Bilkis, the FIR registered by the Gujarat police and the photographs of the bodies and other evidence collected from the spot.
The High Court had, meanwhile, rejected an intervention application filed by Bilkis Bano seeking that she be granted hearing.