The Bombay High Court on Thursday rejected bail pleas of the seven convicts in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gang-rape case after observing that it was a “serious offence”.

“Considering the seriousness and gravity of the case, the accused cannot be released on bail till the final disposal of their appeals against conviction,” a division bench of Justices N H Patil and Mridula Bhatkar observed.

All the seven accused were sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court in 2008 following which they moved HC seeking bail pending disposal of the appeals.

According to prosecution, on March 3, 2002, Bilkis Bano’s family was attacked by a mob at Randhikpur village, about 250 kms from Ahmedabad, during the post-Godhra riots.

Eight members of her family were killed and Bilkis was gang-raped, while six other members of her family went missing.

“The accused are facing murder and rape charges which are serious offences. At this stage the accused cannot be released,” Justice Patil observed.

The High Court has admitted the appeals of the accused against the conviction and also the CBI’s appeal seeking death penalty for three of the seven convicts.

The trial in the case had been transferred to a court in Mumbai by the Supreme Court following allegations that the witnesses could be influenced in Gujarat.