Refusing to compare her case with the Nirbhaya gang-rape case where the apex court upheld death penalty for the convicts, Gujarat gang-rape survivor Bilkis Bano on Monday said she was content with the Bombay High Court rejecting the death penalty plea in her case. In one of the most horrifying incidents during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Bano, then 19 and pregnant, was brutalised by a gang of men and many of her family members killed in front of her eyes. While upholding a trial court sentence of life term to 11 convicts, the Bombay High Court on May 4 rejected a CBI plea which sought death sentence for three of the convicts. Interacting with media persons in the national capital, Bano said she was happy with the court’s verdict in her case.
“I am very happy with the court’s verdict. The horrors I suffered deserve the maximum punishment, but at the same time I do not want any one else to die in my name. I want justice, not revenge,” said Bano. She said the five policemen whose acquittal has been set aside by the high court, deserve harsher punishment. Charged with tampering of evidence by fudging documents, the men had been acquitted by a trial court in 2008. While setting aside their acquittal, the high court had observed: “The omissions on the part of the police accused are so grave and so obvious that their malafides and intentions are very apparent. The investigation is not only faulty but it is downright tainted.”
While welcoming the court’s verdict against the policemen, National Award-winning filmmaker Shonali Bose demanded punishment for the “masterminds of the cover up” in the Gujarat riots. “These five policemen were mere foot soldiers in the cover up. Their indictment by the court is indeed a message but justice will be done when the masterminds of the cover up of the 2002 riots are brought to justice,” she said.
Speaking on the occasion, former bureaucrat N.C. Saxena said police have prejudices against the minority community in cases of communal violence. “Police almost always functions with strong prejudices against minorities during riots,” he said, citing several administrative and judicial reports where policemen have been indicted for their role in communal violence. On May 5, a Supreme Court bench upheld the death sentences of all four convicts in the Nirbhaya case in which a 23-year-old paramedical student was gang-raped inside a moving bus on December 16, 2012 in Delhi. The savage assault led to her death due to internal injuries 13 days later in a Singapore hospital.
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