A week after the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Supreme Court will resume hearing the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape cases. The apex court last week had taken suo motu cognisance of the case and had sought explanation from Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government and the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry as to why neither body took action to stop minor girls from being raped in shelters home in Muzaffarpur. A notice has been issued to both governments.
Reports had said that the chargesheet in the case detailed a network of police, politicians, administration and criminals behind the racket that has been going on for around four years. The apex court has also banned electronic media from putting up images of minor girls, even in morphed or blurred forms, who were allegedly raped at the shelter homes in Muzaffarpur, ANI had reported. The court said the victims cannot be forced to “relive the trauma”.
The Bihar government has, so far, suspended 23 officials and staffers, including six assistant directors of child protection units, on charges of “negligence and dereliction of duty”.
The bench said it has not restrained the police authority from conducting a probe and if they want to question the alleged victims, they would have to take assistance of professional counsellors and qualified child psychiatrist in consultation with National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences in Bengaluru and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai.
A bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta took cognisance of the incident following a letter from a Patna resident, Ranvijay Kumar . The letter referred to the situation in the shelter home where over 30 inmates were allegedly sexually abused over several years. The bench said it was “extremely disturbed” by the contents of the letter and asked “is this the way we are treating our girls?”
It also sought assistance from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) who had done an audit of the shelter home following which the irregularities came to light. The audit report was submitted to the state government in April and said that many girls at the shelter home had complained of sexual abuse.
Advocate Aparna Bhat has been made amicus curiae in the matter. The apex court is already looking into matters of orphanages and observation homes across the country.
The bench also asked whether any compensation has been given to the alleged victims. While Bhat said that compensation scheme was there in Bihar, the ASG said, “there may be a compensation scheme but what they (alleged victims) have lost, cannot be quantified”.
Over 30 girls were allegedly raped at the shelter home run by one Brajesh Thakur, the chief of the state-funded NGO. An FIR was lodged against 11 people, including Thakur on 31 May.
In all, sexual abuse of 34 inmates out of 42 was confirmed in their medical examination, while two others who were unwell were yet to undergo medical tests. The TISS audit report stated that many girls at the shelter home had complained of sexual abuse. A special investigation team was formed to probe the complaints.
The NGO running the shelter home in Muzaffarpur was blacklisted and the girls were shifted to shelter homes in Patna and Madhubani. Women staff members of the shelter home and Thakur were among those who were arrested by the local police in connection with the case.