Eleven persons were sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court in Mumbai on Monday for their involvement in the Bilkis Bano gang-rape and murders that took place during the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002.
The twelfth convict in the case, Somabhai Gori, a police official who was found guilty for shielding the offenders, has been sentenced to three years' rigorous imprisonment.
On January 18, the court convicted the 12 and acquitted seven for lack of evidence, while one died during the course of the trial.
The accused sentenced to life imprisonment by the court are: Jaswantibhai Nai, Govindbhai Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Shah, Bipin Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajanbhai Soni, Nitesh Bhatt, Ramesh Chandana. Bilkis was among a group of 17 going from Chaparwad to Panivela on March 3, 2002, when they were attacked.
Eight persons were killed and six went missing after the incident. Bilkis, who was six months pregnant, was gang-raped. She and two children were the only survivors of the attack. The trial was transferred from Ahmedabad to Mumbai in August 2004 by the Supreme Court as the Central Bureau of Investigation and Bilkis had expressed fears that witnesses could be intimidated or harmed.
The eleven persons were convicted under Indian Penal Code sections 120 (b) (conspiracy), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 376 (2) (e) (g) (rape on pregnant woman and gang-rape) and 302 (murder).
One of the members of this group, Naresh Mordhiya, died during the course of the trial.
Police official Gori was found guilty by the court under sections 217 and 218 of IPC for attempting to shield the offenders.
While convicting the eleven accused, the court had considered the statements of Bilkis and one of the child witnesses, who was eight years old at the time of the incident.