Gujarat riots: Bombay High Court asks Bilkis Bano to convert intervention plea into appeal

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today rejected an intervention application filed by Bilkis Bano, a 2002 Gujarat riots victim.

A division bench of Justices V K Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar ruled that the application cannot be allowed under the Criminal Procedure Code, but as the court was inclined to hear Bilkis, she may convert her application into an appeal.

The appeal, however, cannot challenge the life sentence awarded to the eleven convicts (to seek bigger punishment) in the case by the trial court and only challenge the acquittal of five personnel of Gujarat Police, the judges said.

The HC asked Bilkis’s lawyer Vijay Hiremath to inform about her decision tomorrow.

The bench is hearing appeals filed by CBI seeking enhancement of the sentence awarded to three of the eleven convicts. Also, the convicts have appealed against the trial court’s order of conviction.

Hiremath had argued that Bilkis, being the victim and an eyewitness, had the right to become an intervenor as per a 2008 amendment to the CrPC.

However, advocate Harshad Ponda, the counsel for the convicts, opposed it, saying that the amendment only allowed the victim to file an appeal and not intervention application.

CBI lawyer Hiten Venegaonkar argued that the victim, if allowed to participate in the hearing, must bring additional information, something omitted by the prosecution.

However, he said, in cases like the present one where “grievous crimes had been committed” the court should consider granting a hearing to the victim in the “interest of justice”.

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad during post-Godhra violence and seven members of the family were killed. Bilkis, who was five-month pregnant, was gang-raped.