New Delhi, Jan 20: Delhi Court on Monday convicted 19 accused including Brajesh Thakur in Muzaffarpur Shelter Home case. The apex court found Thakur guilty of gang rape and aggravated penetrative sexual assault. Court to hear arguments on sentence on January 28 at 11 am. The order was pronounced by Additional Sessions Judge Dr Saurabh Kulshreshtha.
The case pertains to the rape and sexual abuse of inmates of a shelter home in Muzaffarpur. The NGO, Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, which ran the shelter home was owned by Thakur.
Prior to that, in November, it had deferred the verdict by a month as 20 accused, who are currently lodged in Tihar central jail, could not be brought to court premises due to the lawyers' strike in all six district courts in the national capital.
The court on March 20, 2018, had framed charges against the accused, including Thakur, for offences of criminal conspiracy to commit rape and penetrative sexual assault against minors.
The accused included eight females and 12 males.
The court had held the trial for the offences of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, drugging of minors and criminal intimidation among other charges.
Key accused Thakur and employees of his shelter home, as well as officials in the Bihar department of social welfare, were charged with criminal conspiracy, neglect of duty and failure to report the assault on the girls.
The charges also included offence of cruelty to child under their authority, punishable under the Juvenile Justice Act.
All the accused, who appeared before the court, pleaded innocence and claimed trial. The offences entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
The court had reserved order on September 30 after final arguments by the CBI counsel and 20 accused in the case in which former Bihar Social Welfare Minister and then JD(U) leader Manju Verma also faced flak as allegations surfaced that Thakur had links with her husband. She had resigned from her post on August 8, 2018.
The CBI had told a special court that there was enough evidence against all the accused in the case.
However, those accused have claimed that the CBI had not conducted a "fair investigation" into the case, which has been registered under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and entails life imprisonment as the maximum punishment.
Additional Sessions Judge Kulshreshtha, during the in-camera trial, concluded the arguments in the case which had begun on February 25 last year.
The case was transferred on February 7 from a local court in Muzaffarpur in Bihar to a POCSO court at Saket district court complex in Delhi on the Supreme Court's directions.
During the trial, counsel for the CBI told the court that the statements of minor girls, who were allegedly sexually assaulted, point to the fact that there was enough evidence against all the accused and they should be convicted.
The matter had come to light after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) submitted a report to the Bihar government on May 26, 2018, highlighting the alleged sexual abuse of minor girls in the shelter home for the first time.
On May 29, 2018, the state government shifted the girls from the shelter home to other protection homes. An FIR was lodged against the 11 accused in the case on May 31, 2018.
The top court on August 2 had taken cognisance of the alleged sexual assaults of about 30 minor girls in Muzaffarpur's shelter home and transferred the probe to the CBI on November 28.