New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the Gujarat government to pay Rs 50 lakh as compensation to Bilkis Bano, who was gang-raped during the 2002 riots. The court also directed the government to provide her a government job and accommodation, after noting that she had been living a nomadic life for the past 17 years.
Bano was 21 years old at the time of the incident. Her three children were also killed by an anti-Muslim rioting mob. She had moved the court seeking an “exemplary compensation” after refusing to accept the Gujarat government offer of Rs 5 lakh.
"Feel lucky that we are not observing anything against your government in the order", CJI Gogoi told Hemantika Wahi, the standing counsel of Gujarat.
The Supreme Court had earlier asked the state government to take disciplinary action in two weeks against the erring police officials, including an IPS officer, convicted by the Bombay High Court in the case. Besides, Bano, in a plea before the top court, sought exemplary compensation from the state government, refusing to accept its offer of Rs 5 lakh.
Advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing for Bano, had said no action had been taken by the state government against the erring officials, who were convicted by the high court. She said one IPS officer, currently serving in Gujarat, is set to retire this year, while in case of four other officials who have retired, no action has been taken against them like stopping of their pensions and retirement benefits.
The counsel further said these police officers were convicted by the high court for botching up the investigation in the case. With regard to compensation, she contended that Bano has been leading almost a nomadic life after being subjected to gruesome crime and therefore exemplary compensation should be granted.
Bano, five months pregnant at that time, was gang-raped while six other members of her family managed to escape from the mob. The trial in the case initially began in Ahmedabad. However, after Bano expressed apprehensions that the witnesses could be harmed and the CBI evidence tampered with, the apex court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.
The high court had on May 4, 2017, convicted seven people — five policemen and two doctors — under sections 218 (not performing their duties) and section 201 (tampering of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The top court had on July 10, 2017, dismissed the appeals of two doctors and four policemen, including an IPS officer RS Bhagora, challenging their conviction by the high court saying there was "clear-cut evidence" against them. One of the officers did not appeal.
A special court had on January 21, 2008, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men for raping Bano 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 had later approached the Bombay High Court challenging their conviction and sought to quash and setting aside of the trial court.
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 March 3, 2002, Bano's family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad. 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, proving that she could not have been gang-raped, and the failure to find the bodies of some of her family members which proved that they were not killed.