Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case: Nitish Kumar govt's treatment of case 'tragic, shameless and inhuman', says Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the Bihar government over its failure to file correct FIR in the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case and gave the Nitish Kumar government 24 hours to add charges under Section 377 (rape) of the IPC and the POCSO Act in the FIRs, ANI reported. The FIR against Bihar's former social welfare minister Manju Verma and her husband Chandrakant Verma in connection with the case was filed in August under the Arms Act.

 Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case: Nitish Kumar govts treatment of case tragic, shameless and inhuman, says Supreme Court

File image of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. PTI

The Supreme Court came down heavily on the Bihar government and asked, “What are you (Bihar government) doing? It’s shameful. If the child is sodomised you say it’s nothing? How can you do this? It’s inhuman. We were told that matter will be looked with great seriousness, this is seriousness?" The top court added that it was "tragic" to go over the file of the case each time.

In stern words, the apex court told the government that "if we find that there were offences under section 377 of IPC and the POCSO Act and you did not register FIR, we will pass an order against the government."

Taking note of the other shelter home sexual abuse cases in the state, the court asked: "There are 17 shelter homes where allegations of sexual abuse were cited in the TISS report. Why should each case not be investigated? Are these children lesser citizens of the country?”

The top court also told the Bihar government that it was not happy with the Bihar Police's probe and wished to transfer the case to the Central Beaureu of Investigation (CBI). The Bihar chief secretary Deepak Kumar will file his case in the court on Wednesday when the matter would be taken up again for hearing.

A petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking lodging of an FIR and court-monitored probe by an independent agency into the alleged physical and sexual abuse of inmates in 14 shelter homes in Bihar as highlighted in a report.

The Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) report was submitted to the Bihar government in August and it has highlighted gross violations of human rights of inmates in 15 shelter homes in the state, including the Muzaffarpur shelter, whose affairs are now being investigated by the CBI.

The plea filed by journalist Nivedita Jha through advocate Fauzia Shakil has sought "registration of FIR and independent investigations or court-monitored probe into the affairs of these 14 (other) shelter homes in Bihar mentioned in the TISS report". It also sought direction to the authorities to look into the aspect of rehabilitation of the victims of alleged sexual and physical abuse in these 14 shelter homes and to pay compensation to them. The plea has alleged that the Bihar government has not conducted any probe into the allegations of irregularities, sexual and physical abuse in the 14 shelter homes highlighted in the TISS report.

"No FIR has been lodged and no investigation/enquiry has been undertaken by any authority into the glaring irregularities and instances of sexual and physical abuse of the residents. It is most respectfully submitted that as per the information received from the members of the civil society, most of these 14 shelter homes are still functioning in the same way," it said. The plea, while referring to the media reports, said that without conducting any probe into the allegations of sexual and physical abuse, the state was in the process of taking over the management of these shelter homes. "It is pertinent to point out here that the TISS report highlighted instances of sexual abuse in the children homes run by the state government in Araria and Arrah districts of Bihar. Thus an inference can be drawn that children homes managed by the respondent state are no-better managed than the other shelter homes administered by these NGOs," it claimed.

The plea said that the investigation into the Muzaffarpur shelter home has shocked the nation and has exposed the ghastly nature of sexual and physical abuse in which hapless minor girls were subjected to including instances where minor girls were drugged and raped. "It has brought to light the involvement of senior politicians and bureaucrats including the members of the child protection units," said the petition. It said the delay in arresting former minister Manju Verma in the state in a connected matter exposes the deep police-politician nexus in Bihar and there are several instances of inaction by police and members of the state administration. Verma has surrendered before the district court in Begusarai on 20 November in connection with an Arms Act case.

On 12 November 12, the apex court had said it was "quite shocked" that the Bihar police was unable to trace and arrest Verma, who had stepped down from the cabinet in the wake of the Muzaffarpur shelter home scandal, in a case related to alleged recovery of illegal ammunition from her house. Verma had resigned as the social welfare minister after it came to light that her husband Chandrashekhar Verma had spoken to Brajesh Thakur, the prime accused in the Muzaffarpur case, several times between January and June. Thakur's NGO was running the shelter where several women inmates were allegedly raped and sexually abused.

On 31 October, the apex court had expressed displeasure over the failure of the police in arresting Manju Verma, whose anticipatory bail plea was dismissed by the Patna High Court on 9 October. Manju Verma's husband had earlier surrendered before a court in Begusarai in connection with the case related to a recovery of ammunition. The top court had last month directed that Thakur be shifted to the high-security jail in Punjab's Patiala from a jail in Bihar's Bhagalpur.

An FIR was lodged on 31 May against 11 people, including Thakur, following the TISS report. The probe was later taken over by the CBI and so far, 17 people have been arrested.

With inputs from agencies.

Updated Date: Nov 27, 2018 12:15:50 IST