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'I Can Breathe Again': Bilkis Bano After SC Strikes Down Early Release Of Her Rapists

The Supreme Court overturns Gujarat's controversial decision to release 11 men convicted in the 2002 gang rape and murder case.

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Protest against convicts of Bilkis Banos case
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The Supreme Court has overturned the decision by the Gujarat government to release 11 men convicted for the gang rape and murder of Bilkis Bano's relatives during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Bilkis Bano, who was three months pregnant at the time of the heinous crime, expressed profound relief, stating, “Today is truly the New Year for me. I have wept tears of relief. I have smiled for the first time in over a year and a half. I have hugged my children. It feels like a stone the size of a mountain has been lifted from my chest, and I can breathe again.”

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The Supreme Court's verdict highlighted the improper authority of Gujarat to reduce the sentence, emphasising that the trial had been moved to Mumbai, making Maharashtra responsible for such decisions.

The court also found that the 2022 order directing the Gujarat government to consider remission was obtained fraudulently. Bilkis Bano expressed her gratitude, saying, “This is what justice feels like. I thank the honourable Supreme Court of India for giving me, my children and women everywhere, this vindication and hope in the promise of equal justice for all.”

Bilkis Bano and her family had faced continuous safety concerns, prompting them to relocate from their native Randhikpur village. Her Uncle Abdul Razzak Mansuri, welcomed the Supreme Court's decision and emphasised the importance of justice being served.

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He stated, "We are happy to learn that justice has been served, and all the convicts are now required to surrender within two weeks. The Gujarat government’s move to release the convicts was erroneous and not in the interest of justice."

The village of Randhikpur witnessed a significant exodus, with some Muslim families relocating multiple times in the past year. Bano’s husband struggled to secure steady employment, leading to financial difficulties and disruption in their children's education.

Despite the challenges, the community has been providing financial support to the family.

Saddam Sheikh, one of the two surviving eyewitnesses in the case and Bilkis Bano’s paternal cousin, expressed his relief at the possibility of the convicts being incarcerated again. However, he shared his difficulty in convincing himself that they may not be free again.

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