India’s Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre and Gujarat government for a response on a plea challenging the remission granted to 11 convicts in connection to the case of Bilkis Bano’s gang rape. The court also set a follow-up hearing two weeks from August 25, 2022.

The Supreme Court bench, which was headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana, asked the petitioners to implead those who have been granted remission as parties in the matter, news agency PTI reported.

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CPI(M) leader Subhashini Ali, activist Roop Rekha Rani and journalist Revathy Laul had filed the plea in the Supreme Court.

The 11 convicts were allowed to walk out of a Godhra jail earlier this month. They were originally convicted for life, but were set free 15 years after their sentencing. A crowd welcomed the convicts with flowers and sweets.

The 11 convicts were sentenced to life imprisonment on January 21, 2008, by a special CBI court in Mumbai. The ruling was upheld by the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court, news agency PTI reported.

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While responding to the release of the 11 convicts, Bilkis Bano said that the recent decision had left her “shocked” and “numb.” Bano, a 21-year-old at the time, was five months pregnant when she was gang raped while fleeing the violence that broke out in Godhra. Her 3-year-old child was killed in the 2002 riots.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was quick to react to Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday. He demanded “justice to Bilkis Bano.” Rahul Gandhi wrote in a social media post, “Those giving hollow slogans like ‘Beti Bachao’ are saving the rapists. Today the question is about the respect and entitlement of the women of the country.”