South Asia

India’s Supreme Court blocks early release of men convicted in 2002 Gujarat riots case

NEW DELHI — India’s Supreme Court on Monday overturned the early release of 11 men convicted of gang-raping a pregnant Muslim woman and killing her relatives during the 2002 Gujarat riots, a lawyer involved in the case said.

The court ruled that the Gujarat state government lacked authority to reduce the sentences, as the trial had been transferred to Mumbai. Consequently, the decision falls under the jurisdiction of Maharashtra state. The court ordered the men to return to prison within two weeks.

The victim, Bilkis Bano, was three months pregnant when she was attacked, and seven of her relatives, including her three-year-old daughter, were killed in the riots that left over 1,000 people dead, mostly Muslims.

Convicted in early 2008, the men were released in August 2022 by the Gujarat government, following a recommendation from the prison citing their time served and good behavior. The release sparked widespread criticism, including from Bano’s husband, legal professionals, and politicians. Several petitions challenging the release were filed in the Supreme Court, including one by Bano.