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Charges framed in Bilkis case

By Our Special Correspondent

MUMBAI, JAN. 13. Charges were framed today against the 19 accused in the Bilkis Bano case. The trial is being held here at the court of the Additional Sessions Judge, U.D. Salvi.

The accused, including six police officials and a government doctor, have been charged with conspiracy and common intent, rioting, rape, gang-rape, unlawful assembly, possession of deadly weapons and suppressing and fabricating evidence.

Mr. Justice Salvi said the trial would begin on January 27.

The charges were read out to the accused, who pleaded not guilty.

The trial of one of the accused, Dr. Sangita Prasad, has been separated as she is undergoing treatment for schizophrenia at the Thane mental hospital.

The Special Public Prosecutor, R.K. Shah, said that 115 witnesses, including two eyewitnesses — Bilkis Bano and another boy who survived the massacre — would be called to depose in the case.

Twenty persons were arrested in connection with the incident, which took place on March 3, 2002 near Chapparwad village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district.

Fourteen persons were killed by a mob. Bilkis, who was five months pregnant at that time, was gang-raped and her daughter was killed by the mob.

The Supreme Court ordered the CBI to take over the investigation of the case in December 2003 and file a charge sheet.

It transferred the case to Mumbai in August last.

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