Bilkis Bano case: SC refuses urgent hearing to convicted Gujarat cop

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hold an urgent hearing on a plea by Gujarat Police officer Ramabhai Bhagora seeking stay of a Bombay High Court order convicting him in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case that took place during 2002 Gujarat riots.

A vacation bench of Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Deepak Gupta said there was “no urgency” even as Bhagora’s counsel told the bench that his client had already undergone the sentence and if the conviction was not stayed, then he would lose his job. A Deputy Superintendent of Police at the time of the riots, Bhagora was soon after his acquittal in 2008, empanelled and elevated to the Indian Police Service.

Even as the vacation bench refused to stay the conviction, it also turned a deaf year to counsel’s pleading for a notice to be issued to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which had investigated the case, on plea for the stay of conviction.

The Bombay High Court, while convicting Bhagora along with four other policemen and two medicos on May 4, had sentenced them to a jail sentence that they had already undergone and imposed a fine of Rs 15,000.

The policemen were charged with tampering of evidence by fudging documents and compromising the inquest panchnama (diary).

While rejecting CBI’s plea seeking the death sentence for three of the 11 convicts who were sentenced to life imprisonment by the trial court in the case, the high court had set aside the acquittal of five policemen and two medicos on the agency’s plea challenging their acquittal.

They were acquitted by the trial court in January 2008.

The victim was 19 years old and pregnant when she was subjected to the horror. The horrifying incidents occurred in Randhikpur village near Dahod on March 3, 2002 when she and around a dozen of her family members were attacked by a mob and many of them killed.

Only Bilkis and two relatives, Saddam and Husain, survived while her mother, sister, minor daughter and other relatives were killed.

Holding them guilty of murder, gang rape and raping a pregnant woman, the trial court by its January 21, 2008 verdict had sentenced 11 to life imprisonment.

Those sentenced to life imprisonment included Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Bhagwan Das Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana.

The CBI had moved the High Court seeking death sentence for both the Nais and Bhatt, who was accused of killing Bilkis Bano’s 3-year-old daughter by pounding her head with a stone.