Delhi Court Postpones Verdict in Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Case till December

New Delhi: A district court in Saket postponed till December the judgment in an alleged case of sexual and physical assault on several girls at a shelter home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur. The accused in the case, which include some high-profile names like Bihar People’s Party (BPP) MLA Brajesh Thakur and Bihar Social Welfare minister and the then JD(U) leader Manju Verma, have been charged with criminal conspiracy to commit rape and penetrative sexual assault.

The case was transferred from Bihar to Saket court in Delhi by the Supreme Court in February this year after the apex court said it had had "enough" following reports of slow trial in Bihar. The court directed that the trial should be completed in six months and no extension of time should be sought.

“Enough is enough, give us details of the 110 shelter homes in the state. How many inmates are there? How is the state giving assistance and what is the number of male and female inmates?” Ranjan Gogoi, Chief Justice of India, had said.

An audit of the shelter homes was ordered by the state’s welfare department exposed systematic and institutionalised sexual abuse of children, particularly of girls lodged at the NGO Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti.

Of the 42 girls lodged at this shelter home run by Thakur — a man with political clout who has since been arrested — 34 girls were found to have been sexually abused. The CBI, which later took over the case from the local police, found that five girls had also been murdered in this shelter house. One girl, who is rumoured to have refused to be raped, was allegedly bludgeoned to death in front of the other inmates as a warning.

According to a national daily, in a ‘supervision report’ filed by the town DSP, the accused Brajesh Thakur “ran a sex racket and supplied girls to officials to get tenders” for government projects.

Seva Sankalp was the worst but not the only one of its kind. Several other cases of shelter homes, where people in power routinely traumatised children they were in charge of, were revealed based on the audit report commissioned by Atul Prasad, principal secretary in Bihar’s social welfare department.

Earlier, the court had framed various charges, including criminal conspiracy to commit rape and sexual assault, against the accused.

The gruesome incident came to light after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) filed an affidavit detailing horrifying sexual abuse cases at the shelter homes in 2017.

In December last year, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed a chargesheet against 21 accused in the case. The Supreme Court had earlier transferred the case from Bihar to the court and ordered the judge to complete it within six months. Trial court then framed charges against 21 accused in the case.

In February, the Supreme Court slammed the Bihar government over incomplete information of the status of shelter homes in the state and transferred the trial to Saket court in Delhi. The court said the trial should be completed in six months and no extension of time should be sought.