Bilkis Bano Gangrape: SC Gives Gujarat Govt Last Chance to File Report on Action Against Guilty Cops

The rape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family members was one of the most horrifying incidents that had taken place during the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat.

New Delhi: After months of hand wringing, the Supreme Court has given the Gujarat government a last chance to file a status report on disciplinary action taken against police officers convicted in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case.

Led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, the Supreme Court bench has given the state six weeks’ time to file their reply. In November 2017, a bench comprising the CJI and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y, Chandrachud had considered a submission made by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the state government, to give the state government six more weeks to furnish a reply.

This wasn’t the first time that such an extension was made. The apex court had already granted time on October 23, 2017, to the state government to apprise it on whether any departmental action had been initiated against police officers whose conviction was upheld in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case.

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis, who was a 19-year-old girl at the time, fled her village along with her family in a truck as Muslim homes were targeted by Hindutva mobs in the riots. The truck was stopped by an armed mob of around 30-35 rioters in Randhikpur village of Dahod district near Ahmedabad. The mob gangraped Bano, who was pregnant then, and killed 14 of her family members including her two-year-old daughter and her mother Halima.

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Bilkis Bano: ‘I want justice, not revenge, I want my daughters to grow up in a safe India’
Final victory for Bilkis as SC dismisses appeal of guilty cops, doctors in gangrape case

It took many long years for Bano to finally get justice and she had to deal with years of harassment, which  eventually forced the Supreme Court  to hand the case over to the CBI. It was only in 2004 that the CBI arrested 12 accused people and found the Gujarat police complicit in the cover-up of the horrific crime.

On May 4, 2017, the Bombay high court had upheld the life imprisonment sentence of 11 accused in the case while setting aside the acquittal of seven people including policemen and doctors.

In addition, the court set aside the acquittal of others accused in the case, including Gujarat police officers and doctors from a government hospital. The court also directed each of the convicts to pay Rs 55,000, to go to Bilkis Bano as compensation. Bilkis Bano described this verdict as having “vindicated [her] truth and upheld [her] faith in the judiciary”. “I want justice, not revenge. I want my daughters to grow up in a safe India,” the gangrape survivor said after the high court’s decision.

The trial court, while sentencing 11 people to life imprisonment on January 21, 2008, had acquitted five police officers and two government doctors, giving them the benefit of doubt.