Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday upholds the life imprisonment of 11 men in the Balkis Bano rape case in March March 2002. The high court also dismissed an appeal by the CBI to enhance punishment from life sentence to death for three convicts Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai and one other but allowed the CBI plea against the acquittal of seven other accused.

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-old daughter during Gujarat riots in 2002. Seven persons, including doctors and policemen, and convicted them for tampering with evidence in the case.

According to the media reports, Bilkis Bano, who was six months pregnant, was gangraped during the communal violence that erupted at Randhikpur village near Ahemadabad during the post-Godhra riots on March 3, 2002. . Fourteen members of her family were also brutally murdered by a violent mob.

After the incident the  National Human Rights Commission backed Bilkis’ petition against a judicial magistrate order closing investigation, when Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe.

On January 21, 2008, a special trial court sentenced 11 persons to life imprisonment in the case. The court had convicted Jaswant Nai, Govind Nai, Shailesh Bhatt, Radhyesham Bhagwan Das Shah, Bipin Chandra Joshi, Kesarbhai Vohania, Pradeep Mordhiya, Bakabhai Vohania, Rajubhai Soni, Mitesh Bhatt and Ramesh Chandana. They were held guilty of murder, gang rape and raping a pregnant woman.

The trial court had sentenced head constable Somabhai Gori of the Limkheda police station to three year imprisonment for framing false records and refusing to lodge Bilkis Bano’s first complaint. He had by then spent almost four years in jail and is since dead, said the CBI.

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.

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

(With inputs from Agencies)