The Supreme Court Friday asked the Gujarat 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 sensational Bilkis Bano gang rape case during the 2002 riots in the state.
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.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna asked the Gujarat government to complete the disciplinary action within two weeks initiated against the erring officials indicted by the Bombay High Court.
“On the statement made by the Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State of Gujarat, that the proceedings for disciplinary action against the erring officers will be completed within two weeks, we adjourn the matter for two weeks.
“On the next date, the orders passed in the disciplinary proceedings be placed before the Court,” the bench said.
The top court, terming the Rs 5 lakh compensation offered by the Gujarat government ‘interim’, said the plea for exemplary compensation will be heard on April 23.
“Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General appearing for the State has offered an interim compensation of Rs 5 lakh, which counsel for the petitioner is reluctant to accept and instead prays for final disposal of the special leave petition. Let the special leave petition be listed on April 23, 2019,” it said.
At the outset, Advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing for Bano, said that no action has been taken by the state government against the erring officials, who were convicted by the high court.
She said that 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 that 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.
Gupta said she is not willing to accept the interim compensation of Rs 5 lakh offered by the state government.
Senior advocate Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government said that disciplinary proceedings are going on against the erring police officials.
He said that it will be completed soon but the top court asked him to complete the proceedings within two weeks.
On the compensation part, Mehta said that state government has a policy of granting Rs 5 lakh as compensation in such incidents.
The bench said it will hear the plea for compensation on April 23.
Bilkis, 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 R S 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 21 January, 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 quashing 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 Bilkis 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.