Mumbai, May 6: The Bombay High Court on Thursday upheld the conviction of 11 men in the Bilkis Bano gang rape case observing that the probe in the case not only unsatisfactory but smacked of steps to screen culprits to protect them. The court also convicted five Gujarat Police personnel, two doctors for errors in investigation. “The investigation was not only unsatisfactory but it smacked of dishonest steps to screen the culprits,” the HC bench said. Also Read - 100 Days Or 100 Months: Congress Will Continue To Fight Till Farm Laws Are Rolled Back, Says Priyanka Gandhi

“In a case like this, we need to look through the evidence, sift the evidence minutely and carefully, as the truth lies beyond the layers of omissions and contradictions and dishonest, callous investigation,” said the division bench of Justices V K Tahilramani and Mridula Bhatkar. Also Read - At Janaushadhi Centres, Women Can Buy Sanitary Pads at Rs 2.5 | All You Need to Know

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The Bombay high court pointed out the lapses in the investigation on part of the police and also censured the police for trying to suppress the facts and trying to shied those who committed the crime. Referring to instances such as absence of material facts in the FIR, sending Bilkis for a medical examination not right after the rape but on the second day, not taking her to the crime site, not taking her to identify the bodies, and not protecting the bodies, the court said that this all proved that the personnel at Limkheda police station prepared “incorrect records” in the interest of those who committed the crime.

“We find that witnesses who did not support the prosecution, and who stepped in as defence witnesses, did not create any confidence in our mind that they were telling the truth…. We found that they were interested only in presenting a manipulated version to mislead the Court,” the bench held.

The court also agreed that the FIR filed by police was manipulated to protect the interest of the culprits. “In a way is a very important document which establishes the fact that though Bilkis went to police station and urged for her complaint to be recorded, many facts were suppressed at the police station and her FIR was manipulated,” the bench observed.

“The FIR itself throws light on the falsity in recording of information narrated by her. It initiated an imaginary story of 500 persons chasing and attacking the group of Bilkis. Undoubtedly, this figure of 500 persons was deliberately mentioned to show the impossibility (of) her story, and her being able to identify the accused from a mob of 500.”

“This itself is the most incriminating circumstance against the accused. Earlier investigation has played the role of villain in this case. That the investigation was tainted can also be seen from the evidence of one witness, Dr Mahato…(of) Limkheda Community Health Centre. He has stated that no postmortem was conducted on March 4 or 5, 2002 and there was no request from the police to conduct any postmortem,” it added.

ON DOCTORS

The post-mortem was conducted by two doctors-Arun Kumar Prasad and Sangeeta Prasad-on March 5 in 2002. Since the doctors are not concerned with the investigation, the court said that they are innocent. However, the court said that the officers didn’t conduct post mortem on all the bodies which they should have as per the law.

“The medical officer is required to examine private parts of the victim carefully, keeping in view history of rape, and make an objective note of the observations. It is also a must for the medical officer in the case of rape to collect vaginal swab and smear or any other liquid or dried liquid, which could have been a remnant of seminal discharge and thus give a correct direction to the investigation,” Justice Tahilramani observed. “In the inquest panchanama, the doctors have only mentioned injury to private part of one deceased. On perusal of the photographs, one can easily make out that the females were sexually abused when they were put to death. It was not one incident of rape but as per the case of prosecution, nearly three to four females were raped.”

The doctors reached the crime spot two days later the incident happened. “We are convinced that the defence cannot be taken by the medical officers that they were directed by the police to conduct postmortem in such a manner,” the court said. “Medical officers are independent persons (and) they have to carry out postmortem independently as they are experts, and write true and correct facts in respect of injuries and the cause of death.”

“Nowhere in any of the postmortem reports, the doctors have mentioned that white fluid flowing from private parts of the two bodies was noticed though it is mentioned in the inquest. Similarly, there is a clause in which the doctors has to state about collection of any substance found on the body and nothing was mentioned by the doctors. Thus, it is evident that they were not only casual in conducting the postmortem but suppressed the material information by way of omission,” the bench added.

BILKIS BANO GANG RAPE CASE

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano was gang raped when she was escaping the aggressive mob along with 17 members of her family on a truck. The truck was attacked by a group of men in Randhikpur village of Dahod district. 14 members of her family were killed including her 2-year-old child and Bano was gang raped. At that time, Bilkis Bano was 19 month pregnant.