Bilkis Bano case: Bombay HC rejects CBI’s death plea

Mumbai, (IANS):The Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected a CBI plea seeking the death sentence for at least three of the 11 convicts in the March 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case in Gujarat.

In its plea before the court in 2016, the CBI had said that this fell under the category of ‘rarest of rare’ cases and the life term awarded by a lower court to three of the prime accused — Govind Nai, Sailesh Bhat and Jaswant Nai — should be enhanced to death penalty.

The court also set aside the acquittal of five policemen in the same case by a trial court and directed the Central Bureau of Investigation agency to probe them.

The probe agency said that according to the evidence, the three prime accused had gang-raped the (then) 19-year old five-month pregnant Bilkis Bano, her mother and her sister.

Gang-rape victim Bilkis Bano on Thursday hailed a Bombay High Court verdict that upheld the life terms given to 11 convicts in the 2002 incident and quashed the acquittal of five Gujarat policemen.

“I am very grateful that this verdict has, yet again, vindicated me, and upheld my faith in the judiciary,” Bilkis Bano alias Bilkis Yakub Rasool said in a statement issued through her lawyer.

“My rights, as a human being, as a citizen, woman, and mother, were violated in the most brutal manner. But I have trust in the democratic institutions of our country. Now, my family and I feel we can begin to lead our (normal) lives again, free of fear,” she added.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected a CBI plea for death sentence to at least three of the 11 convicts — Govind Nai, Sailesh Bhat and Jaswant Nai — who were earlier sentenced to life terms by a lower court.

Bilkis was gang-raped in Devgad-Baria village near Dahod on March 3, 2002 during the Gujarat riots.

Bilkis and around a dozen of her family members were attacked by a mob, leading to killing of around a dozen of her family members.

She said she was happy that Gujarat and its officials now stand charged with tampering of evidence.

“For state officers, whose sworn duty it is to protect the citizens and ensure justice, this should be their great moral shame, to bear forever,” Bilkis said, in reference to the quashing of acquittal of five policemen.

She urged Indians to help people under attack and thus reaffirm their faith in the country’s secular values.

“This verdict does not mean the end of hatred, but it means that somewhere, somehow, justice can prevail. This has been a long, seemingly never-ending struggle for me, but when you are on the side of truth, you will be heard; and justice will be yours in the end,” Bilkis said.

She expressed gratitude to her husband Yakub, family members, close friends, her lawyer and Central Bureau of Investigation officials for their unstinted support throughout her long battle.

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