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High Court upholds life sentence to 12, sets aside acquittal of seven

High Court upholds life sentence to 12, sets aside acquittal of seven
The Bombay High Court on Thursday upheld the conviction and life imprisonment of 12 people in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case of the 2002 Gujarat riots while setting aside the acquittal of seven persons including policemen and doctors. The court also dismissed an appeal filed by the CBI seeking the death penalty for three of the convicts.

Bilkis, who was gang raped in March 2002 at a time when she was pregnant, said her rights as a woman, and mother were violated in the most brutal manner and the verdict "vindicated truth", and "upheld" her faith in the judiciary.

Seven of her family members were also killed in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident.

A division bench of Justices V K Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar said, "The appeal against conviction filed by the 11 convicts (one of them is dead) is dismissed. The conviction and sentence are upheld."
"The appeal filed by the prosecution against the acquittal of seven persons (in the case) is allowed. The acquittal is set aside," the court said.

The seven persons, who include five policemen and two doctors, are convicted for not performing their duties (sections 218) and tampering of evidence (section 201) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the bench said. "We will consider the period undergone in jail of these seven persons as their sentence. But we will impose a fine amount on them," the court said.

Each of the seven persons, who was convicted, has been directed to pay a fine of Rs 20,000 within eight weeks.

In a statement to the media, Bilkis said, "My rights, as a human being, as a citizen, woman, and mother were violated in the most brutal manner, but I had trust in the democratic institutions of our country. Now, my family and I feel we can begin to lead our lives again, free of fear."
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