THE defence of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case on Tuesday negated Bilkis’s statements pointing out discrepancies ranging from the crime scene’s topography to details of the attackers.
Senior lawyer Harshad Ponda was appearing for 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court in 2008 for the gangrape of Bilkis and for the murder of her family members in the aftermath of the Godhra riots. They had soon after filed the appeal in the High Court, challenging their conviction.
Ponda argued that Bilkis was never confronted with one of the key eyewitnesses Nanjibhai Nayak for identification. Casting a shadow on the authenticity of Bilkis’s statements, he argued that she gave different versions before different investigating agencies.
The lawyer said that before the local police Bilkis had stated that the incident had occurred when Bilkis and her family members were leaving Godhra. “The incident occurred on kachcha road while leaving Godhra. She said there were two hillocks there but kachcha road does not have any hillocks,” Ponda asserted while relying on CBI records.
Similarly, there were different versions given to the police and the CBI when it came to number of attackers. According to Ponda, Bilkis maintained that there were 35 attackers whereas the records with the police and CBI show that she had stated that there was a mob of 500, which attacked the family.
Ponda, on the next hearing, will dispute the alleged version given by Bilkis about the two “white” coloured vehicles in which the attackers arrived.
On January 21, 2008, a special court had convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment the 11 accused – Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt, and Ramesh Chandana – for the gangrape of Bilkis and murder of her family members. The CBI has sought death penalty for the Nais and Shah.