The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay the conviction of Gujarat police officer RS Bhagora in connection with the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case, reported PTI. The bench said the matter did not require an urgent hearing as the officer had already undergone his sentence.
Bhagora had sought to stay the conviction order passed by the Bombay High Court on May 4. The counsel appearing for the officer said Bhagora, currently serving in Gujarat, could be terminated from the service as per the rules. However, the Supreme Court refused to grant relief to the IPS officer and posted the matter for further hearing in the second week of July.
On May 4, the Bombay High Court had upheld a trial court’s January 2008 verdict that sentenced the 11 surviving convicts in the case to life imprisonment. The bench, however, said that since they had already already spent four and half years in custody before the trial, they should be let go. The High Court had also imposed a Rs 20,000 fine on the accused, which was to be paid to Bilkis Bano.
A group of men raped Bano on March 3, 2002, during the Gujarat riots. She was 19 and pregnant at the time. Fourteen members of her family, including her three-year-old, were murdered by the rioters near Ahmedabad.
Bano, who lives in central Gujarat with her husband, had identified her rapists. The trial had been transferred out of Gujarat in the fear that witnesses might be intimidated or influenced. Twelve people had been convicted in the case and all of them were given life terms by a trial court in Mumbai in January 2008. One of the convicts died.
The CBI had sought death sentences for Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, and Sailesh Bhatt, informing the Bombay High Court that this was a “rarest of rare case”. Though the High Court had dismissed this plea, it upheld another appeal by the agency to overturn the acquittal of five Gujarat Police officers in the case.