The Centra Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday urged the Bombay High Court to award death penalty to three of 11 convicts in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape and murder case saying that maximum punishment was essential to send out a “stern message.”
Since the case involves murders of 14 members of a family, including innocent children, Hitendra Venegaonkar, counsel for CBI, and Arfan Sait, additional public prosecutor, said while the victims were escaping their homes during Gujarat riots, they were singled out and viciously attacked.
The prosecution also said death penalty was essential considering that it had become almost a “norm or a trend in every instance of violence, to subject women to sexual crimes.” “Women are the first and the easiest targets in every riots case, whether communal or not, and life imprisonment with the idea of reforming the convicts is not enough deterrent in such grave cases,” Sait said.
Venegaonkar said there existed direct evidence against the three convicts — Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, and Sailesh Bhatt. “All three of them gangraped Bilkis, her sister and her mother and were identified by her. Bhatt also snatched Bilkis’ three-year-old daughter Saleha from her and crushed her head on a stone thus, instantaneously killing her,” he said.
He also urged the court to reverse the acquittal of five Gujarat cops while saying that they connived with the convicts. “The Gujarat police fudged documents, compromised the inquest panchnama, and did not take Bilkis to identify the dead bodies because they were trying to help the convicts,” Venegaonkar told HC.
In January 2008, a city court convicted 11 people in the case and sentenced them to life imprisonment. All 11 of them then appealed against their conviction in HC.