Fourteen years after Bilkis Bano’s gangrape made headlines, the Bombay High Court is likely to start hearing the appeal of the seven accused who have been convicted by a lower court to life imprisonment. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is expected to appeal for death to three accused in the case. Justice Vijaya Tahilramani and Justice Mridula Bhatkar are likely to begin the trial from July 15.
The CBI has demanded death penalty for Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai and Shailesh Bhatt who had gangraped Bilkis. Bhatt had also killed Bilkis’ daughter Saleha, who was three-and-half-years old. The lower court had refused to award them death sentence, saying there was “not enough evidence”. Advocate Hiten Venegoankar, who represents CBI, said, “We will put forth our case again in HC.”
On March 3, 2002, in the wake of Godhra riots and a bandh called by Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a mob had attacked Bilkis’ house in Randhikpur, Ahmedabad. The mob killed eight, while six other went missing. Bilkis, who was pregnant, was gangraped, while her daughter was killed.
In January 2008, Sessions Court judge UD Salvi convicted Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radheshyam Shah, Bipin Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohonia, Pradeep Morodhiya, Baka Bhai Vahonia, Rajabhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandane. They were given life imprisonment. A constable was booked for three years for refusing to register an FIR in the case, while seven were acquitted in the case.