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Monday, April 15, 2024

Indian SC Reverses Release of 11 Men who Raped Pregnant Muslim

India's Supreme Court reverses the release of 11 men convicted for the gang rape of pregnant Muslim woman in 2002.

India’s Supreme Court has overturned the release order for 11 men convicted of the brutal gang rape of a Muslim woman, Bilkis Bano, during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The attack on Bano and her family became emblematic of the violence against Indian women and the communal tensions often fueled by politicians.

Bano, three months pregnant at the time, faced a horrific assault, with her 3-year-old daughter killed and her mother and cousin raped. The court criticized the Gujarat government’s exceeding its powers in granting early release to the assailants in 2022 and ordered them to surrender within two weeks.

The 2002 Gujarat riots, triggered by a train fire killing Hindu pilgrims, resulted in over 1,000 deaths, predominantly Muslims. While then-Chief Minister Narendra Modi faced accusations of indifference or encouragement, the Supreme Court cleared him. In 2008, 11 attackers received life imprisonment. However, their early release in 2022, seen as political maneuvering, led to widespread criticism. The recent court ruling underscores justice’s paramount role and the rights of both convicts and victims, signaling a significant legal decision.

The release order of the 11 convicts, initially sentenced in 2008, triggered public outrage and an appeal by Bilkis Bano to the Supreme Court. The Gujarat government’s move was widely criticized, viewed as an attempt to consolidate support ahead of state elections. The convicts were released to jubilant welcomes by right-wing nationalists.

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The court’s latest decision not only revokes their release but emphasizes the importance of upholding justice and the rule of law, irrespective of political considerations. The ruling is a significant legal intervention in a case marked by communal tensions and political influence.

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision is expected to reverberate through Gujarat, emphasizing the need for impartial justice. With Prime Minister Modi having faced scrutiny for his role during the 2002 riots, the ruling challenges the perceived impunity of political figures.

Bilkis Bano’s prolonged fight for justice gains renewed significance, highlighting the complex dynamics of communal violence and the resilience required to seek accountability. The court’s emphasis on the rule of law seeks to ensure that justice is not contingent on the identity of victims or perpetrators, setting a precedent for future legal proceedings.