Mumbai, May 4 (Agencies): The Bombay High Court on Thursday upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 12 people in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case while setting aside the acquittal of seven persons including policemen and doctors.
The court also dismissed an appeal filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation seeking death penalty for three of the convicts.
Bilkis Bano's family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad on March 3, 2002, during the anti-Muslim riots that followed the death of 59 kar sevaks in arson on a train at Godhra. Seven members of her family were killed. Bilkis, five months pregnant at the time, was gang-raped but survived.
”The appeal against conviction filed by the 11 convicts [one convict is dead] is dismissed. The conviction and sentence is upheld,” a division bench of Justices V.K. Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar said.
”The appeal filed by the prosecution against the acquittal of seven persons [in the case] is allowed. The acquittal is set aside,” the court said.
The bench convicted seven persons-- five policemen and two doctors – for not performing their duties and tampering with evidence.
”We will consider the undergone period in jail of these seven persons as their sentence. But we will impose a fine amount of them,” the court said.
The convicted policemen Narpat Singh, Idris Abdul Saiyed, Bikabhai Patel, Ramsingh Bhabhor, Sombhai Gori and the doctors are Arun Kumar Prasad and Sangeeta Kumar Prasad.
As of now, 18 people stand convicted in the case.
The court had last year reserved its judgment in the appeals filed by 11 persons convicted in the case and also the appeal filed by CBI for capital punishment to three of them.
On January 21, 2008, a special court had convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men for gang-raping Bilkis and murdering seven of her family members in the aftermath of the Godhra riots.
The convicts later approached the high court here challenging their conviction and sought for the trial court's order to be quashed and set aside.
The CBI had also sought harsher punishment of death for three of the convicted persons on the ground that they were the main perpetrators of the crime.
The trial in the case began in Ahmedabad. However, after Bilkis expressed fears that witnesses could be harmed and the CBI evidence tampered with, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.
The 11 convicted are Jaswantbhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhesham Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana.
The convicts had claimed that the CBI had fabricated all evidence, that Bilkis gave birth to a child later and so she could not have been gang-raped, and the failure to find the bodies of some of her family members proves that they were not killed.
The CBI had sought stronger punishment for Jaswantbhai, Govindbhai and Radhesham Shah on the grounds that they had raped Bilkis.