“I am grateful that this verdict has, yet again, vindicated my truth, and upheld my faith in the judiciary,” Bilkis Bano said in a statement.
New Delhi: The Bombay high court on Thursday upheld the life sentence given by a trial court to 11 convicted in the Bilkis Bano gangrape and murder case from the 2002 Godhra riots. In addition, the court set aside the acquittal of others accused in the case, including Gujarat police officers and doctors from a government hospital, Indian Express reported.
“I wish to say to all my fellow Indian citizens, my fellow Gujaratis, my fellow Muslims, and to women everywhere – I am grateful that this verdict delivered by the honourable judges, has, yet again, vindicated my truth, and upheld my faith in the judiciary,” Bilkis Yakub Rasool said in a press statement after Thursday’s verdict. “My rights, as a human being, as a citizen, woman, and mother were violated in the most brutal manner, but I have trusted in the democratic institutions of our country. Now, my family and I feel we can begin to lead our lives again, free of fear.”
“I am happy that the State and its officials who emboldened, encouraged, and protected the criminals who destroyed the life of an entire community, are no longer unblemished, but today stand charged with tampering of evidence. For officers of the state, whose sworn duty it is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame, to bear forever. To fellow Indians, I appeal to all of you, at a time when we hear news everyday of people being attacked and killed because of their religion or community – please help affirm their faith in the secular values of our country and support their struggles for justice, equality, and dignity. For this verdict does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. This has been an 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,” her statement reads.
The 11 sentenced to life imprisonment were convicted by a trial court in 2008 for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of 14 members of her family, including Bilkis Bano’s two-year-old daughter, while the family attempted to escape the riots. The convicted had then filed an appeal at the high court.
The CBI had asked that three of the men, Jaswantbai Nai, Govindbhai Nai and Radhesham Shah, be given the death penalty, saying they had played a larger role in planning and executing the rape and murder. The high court rejected this plea.
Bilkis Bano was 19 years old and pregnant when the incident occurred.