The Supreme Court of India on Monday overturned the life sentence reduction given to 11 Hindu men who were found guilty of raping Bilkis Bano and killing her relatives in 2002 during anti-Muslim protests in India’s Gujarat state.
The court ordered the men to appear before jail officials in two weeks, adding: “Their plea for protection of their liberty is rejected.”
Now in her 40s, Bilkis was subjected to vicious gang rape while she was five months pregnant during the deadly anti-Muslim riots in India’s Gujarat with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the state’s then-chief minister.
The riots claimed the lives of over 2,000 people, most of them Muslims.
The men killed seven of Bilkis’ relatives, including her three-year-old daughter, whose head was smashed on the ground by the perpetrators in Gujarat’s Dahod district, according to Al Jazeera.
In August 2022, the Gujarat government released the men, convicted in 2008, after their release was recommended by the prison, considering the time they had served and their good behaviour.
However, their release faced criticism from the victim’s husband, lawyers and politicians leading to several petitions being filed in the Supreme Court, including one by Bano herself, challenging their remission.
The court ruled on Monday that Gujarat lacked the jurisdiction to reduce the punishment given because the case trial was transferred to Mumbai, the nation’s financial centre.
According to the court, Gujarat’s government lacked the authority to grant the convicts’ remission orders.
The 11 men and the state’s government did not respond to the verdict right away.