The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual assault case be transferred from Bihar to a New Delhi court which would conclude the trial within six months, saying "enough is enough" over the delay in progress in the case.
Directing the Nitish Kumar-led government to render all assistance in the transfer of the case and its subsequent trial, the apex court came down heavily on the state government for incidents of sexual and physical abuse of children in Bihar’s shelter homes.
Several girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused at an NGO-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur and the issue had come to light following a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took a view of the of the progress made so far and said on Thursday that it will now be transferred to a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court at the Saket district court complex.
The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said the transfer of records to a Delhi court be completed within two weeks and the trial be completed within six months by holding preferably "day-to-day" trial.
Supreme Court irked over Bihar government’s inadequate response
The bench questioned the state government’s counsel over its inadequate response on issues like the total number of shelter homes, their management and the administrative control over them. "Enough is enough. Children cannot be treated like this. You cannot let your officers treat children this way. Spare the children," the bench said.
At the outset, the bench on Thursday had asked: How many shelter homes were operating, how they are funded, and the extent and nature of government control in running them. "We will not ask you (state government) to file an affidavit. Affidavit means (a delay of) two weeks’ time. Answer the question one-by-one. Tell us the exact details," it said.
"Is this the way you treat the children at shelter homes? You cannot let the officers treat the children the way they are treating them right now... the questions will get enlarged now," the bench said had asked the state counsel to be ready with the facts and figures.
In July 2018, the apex court had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the probe into allegations of physical and sexual abuse of inmates at 16 shelter homes in Bihar, besides transferring of the Muzaffarpur sexual assault case. While transferring the cases to CBI, the top court had dismissed the state government's request not to do so.
In the Muzaffarpur shelter home case, an FIR was lodged on 31 May, 2018 against 11 people following the TISS report. The probe was later taken over by the CBI and so far, 17 people have been arrested.
The court also summoned former interim CBI director M Nageswara Rao and another official linked with the transfer of agency officer AK Sharma investigating the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case. According to reports, the apex court said Rao has "prima facie committed contempt of court by transferring CBI officer AK Sharma", and sought his personal appearance on Tuesday.
"We are going to take it very, very seriously. You have played with order of Supreme Court of India. God help you. Never play with Supreme Court's order," ANI quoted Gogoi as saying.
Lalu Yadav slams Nitish Kumar over transfer order
RJD national president Lalu Prasad Yadav slammed Nitish over the apex court’s order to transfer the case. Lalu, who is serving sentences in a number of fodder scam cases and is lodged in a Ranchi hospital for his ailments, voiced his opinion about the “embarrassment” caused to the Bihar government in a series of tweets.
In a rustic dialect of Bhojpuri, he tweeted "ka ho Nitish, kuchh sharm bachal ba ki naahi (Nitish, are you left with any shame).” His Twitter handle is reportedly managed by people close to him. In another tweet, the RJD supremo came out with a one-liner "habitual protectors of rapists of Bihar will keep quiet. Chupppp".
Nitish has been accused by Opposition leaders, especially Prasad's younger son Tejashwi Yadav, of keeping silent over allegations against the accused in the scandal.
Other key cases that were also transferred for 'swift justice':
Section 406 of the CrPC allows the Supreme Court to, "for the ends of justice,… direct that any particular case or appeal be transferred from one High Court to another High Court or from a Criminal Court subordinate to one High Court to another Criminal Court of equal or superior jurisdiction subordinate to another High Court”.
A Delhi court on Monday sent the Sunanda Pushkar death case against Congress leader Shashi Tharoor to the Sessions court for further proceedings. Tharoor has been charged under Section 306 (abetment to suicide), which is triable by a Sessions judge. Hence, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal sent the case to the court of Additional Sessions judge Arun Bhardwaj.
The Congress MP has also been charged under Sections 498-A (husband or his relative subjecting a woman to cruelty), but has not been arrested in the case. The court also directed Delhi police to preserve vigilance report in the matter. The maximum punishment for the offence is 10 years of imprisonment. The court also dismissed BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's plea seeking to assist the court in the case.
In May 2018, a bench of the apex court headed by former CJI Dipak Misra, transferred the Kathua rape and murder case to Pathankot in Punjab. According to reports, the victim's family had appealed for the case to be shifted out of Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir due to a "surcharged" atmosphere with a movement supporting those accused in the case.
The bench had also put several guidelines in place for greater efficiency in the case: The trial would be held daily and in-camera, the court said, to allow the witnesses to testify without fear; the trial would not have unnecessary adjournments; and the documents were to be transferred into English from Urdu, a report by The Economic Times said.
The apex court transferred the Sohrabuddin Sheikh 'fake' encounter case from Gujarat to Mumbai in September 2012. According to reports, the court feared that a fair trial of the case, in which BJP president Amit Shah was then an accused, would not be possible in Gujarat.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Feb 08, 2019 17:01:21 IST