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Bilkis Bano case: No death penalty but life imprisonment for 11 convicts, rules Bombay HC

The Bombay High Court today dismissed the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) appeal for granting death sentence to 11 men in the March 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case in Gujarat and upheld the life imprisonment sentence pronounced by the trial court.

A total of 17 accused have been convicted for raping 19-year-old pregnant Bano and killing 14 members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter during Gujarat riots in 2002.

The court also convicted five police officers in the case while rejecting the central investigating agency's appeal to enhance punishment of certain convicts.

The Bombay High Court had recently reserved its order in the case. The 11 convicts, who were sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court in 2008 for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano and the murder of her family members in the wake of the Godhra riots, had moved the high court against their conviction.

During the Gujarat riots of March 2002, Bano witnessed 14 members of her family being massacred by a violent mob, when they were trying to escape from their riot-struck village Randhikpur, 250 km away from Ahmedabad.

Six months pregnant at the time, Bilkis survived the slaughter, but not before being subjected to gangrape by a savage mob.

The trial began in Ahmedabad but the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004 after Bano expressed fears that witnesses could be harmed and the Central Bureau of Investigation evidence tampered with.