On Monday, the 15th August when India completed 75 years of Independence Bilkis Bano, 41, from Gujarat lost her case against the state. Bilkis was 21 year old in 2002 when she was allegedly gangraped by 11 men in Godhra during the Gujarat communal riots. After fighting for almost two decades seeking justice from the court she lost it finally when all the 11 accused were set free from Godhra sub-jail leaving Bilkis speechless.
Bilkis Bano gangrape case has been in the headline since Gujarat riots and was one of the most awaited judgments of the recent times. All the convicts were released after a panel Gujarat government approved the application for remission of the sentence.
Here is the timeline of the horrific case that shook the nation:-
March 3, 2002: A violent mob stormed 19 year old Bilkis Bano’s family in Ahmedabad, killing seven members of his family. Five months pregnant Bilkis at the time, was gang-raped while six other members of her family managed to flee.
2002-2003: Local police officers repeatedly refused to register her case, citing lack of evidence, and threatened legal action if she continued the matter. Bilkis then approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and entered a guilty plea to the Supreme Court in December 2003. The Supreme Court then ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the case.
January 2004: The CBI arrested all the suspects after gathering all available evidence against each of them identified in Bilkis’s complaint,.
August 2004: After Bilkis raised her concerns about the possibility of evidence tampering and potential harm to witnesses, the High Court decided to move the trial from Ahmedabad to Bombay.
January 2008: 13 people were found guilty by the trial court of raping Bilkis, participating in a criminal conspiracy, and murder, with 11 of them receiving life sentences. The defendant subsequently challenged the conviction in the High Court, requesting that the trial court’s decision be reversed.
July 2011: The CBI petitioned the Bombay High Court asking for the convicts to be hanged.
July 15, 2016: Appeals filed by 11 people charged with crimes in the 2002 gang rape case were heard by the Bombay High Court.
September 2016 – The convict’s lawyer requested that a number of witnesses in the case be re-examined, but the Bombay HC refused his request.
Oct 2016 – Bombay High Court tribunal ruled that the application cannot be admitted under the Code of Criminal Procedure, but as the court mentioned Bilkis can make her application an appeal.
December 2016 – Bombay High Court reserved judgment on an appeal by 11 prisoners who were sentenced to life imprisonment. In addition, the HC reserved judgment on a CBI appeal seeking the death penalty for three convicted criminals, describing it as one of the rarest of situations.
May 2017: Bombay HC confirmed the life sentences of the 11 convicts.
May 15, 2022: One of these prisoners, who had already served more than 15 years in prison, went before the Supreme Court and asked for an early release.
Aug 15, 2022: The eleven convicts were released from Godhra sub-jail under the Gujarat government diversion policy.