The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to grant a stay on the conviction of Indian Police Service Officer (IPS) R S Bhagora in the 2002 Bilkis Bano case. A vacation bench of Justices A K Sikri and Deepak Gupta said that there is no urgency for hearing the matter as the convicted officer has already undergone the sentence.
The bench, however, listed the matter for hearing in the second week of July, observing the fine is of Rs 15,000 only. IPS officer R S Bhagora, currently serving in Gujarat, has been convicted along with four other policemen by the Bombay High Court recently after the trial court had acquitted them.
The counsel appearing for Bhagora said if the conviction does not stay, then he will be terminated from the service as per service rules. He said the court should grant stay on the conviction.
The Bombay High Court had on May 4 reversed the trial court verdict acquitting Bhagora and others and had upheld the conviction of 11 people (one convict is dead) in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case.
Along with five policemen, two doctors were also convicted by the HC. The High Court bench had said that the seven persons— doctors and the policemen—are convicted under sections 218 (not performing their duties) and section 201 (tampering of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
A special court had on 21 January, 2008 convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men for raping Bilkis and murdering seven of her family members in the aftermath of the Godhra riots while acquitting seven persons including the policemen and doctors.
The convicts later approached the Bombay high court challenging their conviction and sought for the trial court’s order to be quashed and set aside. The CBI had also filed an appeal in the high court seeking harsher punishment of death for three of the convicted persons on the ground that they were the main perpetrators of the crime.
According to the prosecution, on 3 March, 2002, Bilkis Bano’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad during the post-Godhra riots and seven members of her family were killed.
Bilkis, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang raped while six other members of her family managed to escape from the mob.
The trial in the case began in Ahmedabad. However, after Bilkis expressed apprehensions that witnesses could be harmed and the CBI evidence tampered, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.
The convicts had challenged the order on three main grounds that all evidence in the case was fabricated by CBI, that Bilkis gave birth to a child after the incident, which proved that she could not have been gang raped, and the failure to find the bodies of some of her family members proves that they were not killed.