Bilkis Bano gangrape: SC grants 6 weeks to Gujarat government to reply on plea

The Supreme Court today granted six more weeks to the Gujarat government to file its reply on a plea demanding exemplary compensation for Bilkis Bano, who was gangraped during the 2002 riots in the state.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, however, refused to grant time beyond six weeks to the state, saying “No further time shall be granted for filing response in the matter.”

The top court had on January 10 sought the Gujarat government’s reply on the victim’s plea for exemplary compensation and had earlier asked it to state whether any disciplinary action has been initiated against the policemen convicted in the matter.

There are two petitions pending in the apex court. One pertains to the award of exemplary compensation to the victim and other relates to the disciplinary action to be taken against the policemen involved in the case.

The plea said considering the extreme violation of fundamental rights of the victim, the court should revisit its law on assessment of the quantum of compensation to be given to Bano.

Bano, who was gangraped in March 2002 when she was pregnant, had lost seven family members in the riots that followed the Godhra carnage.

“The horrendous facts of the present case and extremes of the egregious violation of fundamental rights and human rights of the petitioner would though beseech rather demand the court to raise the bar much higher,” the plea said.

It had also urged the top court to “evolve path-breaking guidelines by revisiting its own law on assessing quantum of compensation to be granted under public law jurisdiction” and set new parameters to arrive at a figure to compensate such violations.

In her application for exemplary compensation, the victim alleged that the state had not only failed to protect her, but rather used all its machinery to protect the perpetrators of the heinous crime, thereby violating her supreme constitutional rights.

“With this backdrop of legal and factual status, the petitioner would submit to this court that (it) may please consider her case for awarding exemplary compensation to be paid by the State of Gujarat in having failed completely in protecting the fundamental rights of the petitioner,” it said.

The apex court had on November 24 last year made it clear that the plea seeking enhancement of compensation to be awarded to Bano would be considered at a later stage.

The Bombay High Court on May 4, 2017 had upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 12 people in the gangrape case, while setting aside the acquittal of seven people including policemen and doctors.

The bench had convicted seven persons, including five policemen and two doctors, for not performing their duties (sections 218) and tampering of evidence (section 201) under the Indian Penal Code.

The convicted policemen and doctors are Narpat Singh, Idris Abdul Saiyed, Bikabhai Patel, Ramsingh Bhabhor, Sombhai Gori, Arun Kumar Prasad (doctor) and Sangeeta Kumar Prasad (doctor).

A special court had on January 21, 2008, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment 11 men in the case. They had approached the Bombay High Court challenging their conviction and seeking quashing of the trial court’s order.

The CBI had filed an appeal in the high court seeking harsher punishment of death for three of the convicted 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 during the riots and seven members of her family were killed.

The trial in the case began in Ahmedabad. However, after Bano expressed apprehensions that witnesses could be harmed and the CBI evidence tampered with, the Supreme Court had transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.

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