On Monday, the Supreme Court of India overturned the reduction of life sentences granted to 11 Hindu men convicted of raping Bilkis Bano and killing her relatives during the 2002 anti-Muslim protests in Gujarat state. The court instructed the men to report to jail officials within two weeks, rejecting their plea for liberty protection.
Bilkis Bano, now in her 40s, suffered a brutal gang rape while five months pregnant during the deadly anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, which occurred while Prime Minister Narendra Modi served as the state’s chief minister. The riots resulted in over 2,000 deaths, predominantly among the Muslim community.
The convicted men had killed seven of Bilkis’ relatives, including her three-year-old daughter, whose head was brutally smashed on the ground in Gujarat’s Dahod district.
In August 2022, the Gujarat government released the men, who had been convicted in 2008, based on recommendations from the prison, citing their time served and good behavior.
The release faced backlash from the victim’s husband, legal professionals, and politicians, prompting multiple petitions in the Supreme Court, including one filed by Bilkis herself, challenging the remission.
The court’s ruling stated that Gujarat lacked jurisdiction to reduce the sentences as the case trial had been transferred to Mumbai, the nation’s financial center. According to the court, the Gujarat government did not have the authority to grant remission orders to the convicts.
As of now, neither the 11 men nor the Gujarat government has responded to the court’s verdict.