Court Refuses Bail to Accused in Bilkis Case

Refusing to grant bail to a convict in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang rape and murder case who is suffering from asthma and backache, the Bombay High Court today directed the government to find out if the accused could be provided with ayurvedic treatment inside jail.

A division bench of Justices N H Patil and A R Joshi was hearing a petition filed by Bipinchandra Joshi, one of the convicts undergoing life sentence who sought to be released on bail on medical grounds.

Joshi pleaded that he was suffering from asthma, nasal problems, backache, migraine and wanted to take ayurvedic treatment.

"These are common diseases. Every second person has such health problems. Bail cannot be granted on such grounds. If he wants ayurvedic treatment then the government has started providing them inside prisons," Justice Patil said.

The bench directed the state government to contact the Vadodara prison where Joshi is lodged and find out about his medical problems and whether ayurvedic treatment could be provided to him inside prison.

The matter will be heard on February 5.

Joshi and 10 others were sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2008 by a lower court for gangrape, murder, assault, criminal conspiracy and causing enmity between two religious groups. Seven others were acquitted due to lack of evidence.

According to the prosecution, on March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano's family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad during the post-Godhra riots and eight members of her family were killed.

Bilkis, who was five months pregnant at the time, was gang raped while six other members of her family managed to escape from the mob.

The trial began in Ahmedabad. However, after Bano expressed apprehensions that witnesses could be harmed and CBI evidence tampered, the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai in August 2004.

The CBI has filed an appeal in the high court seeking death penalty for three of the convicts even as all the convicts have filed appeal challenging their sentence.

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