Muzaffarpur shelter home: No inmate was killed, all traced, CBI tells SC

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The CBI had investigated cases of 17 shelter homes in Bihar and chargesheets had been filed in 13 of them

IN A twist to the Muzaffarpur shelter home abuse case, the CBI told the Supreme Court Wednesday there was no evidence that any inmate had been murdered, as was alleged earlier.

Appearing for the CBI, Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench of Chief Justice of India S A Bobde and Justices  B R Gavai and Surya Kant that there were 35 girls at the shelter home. The agency said all the 35 girls had been traced, and found to be alive. Venugopal said some of the inmates had earlier alleged that minors had been murdered, and their bodies buried. “When the probe agency went to the spot where the alleged bodies were buried, two skeleton parts were recovered. On forensic investigation of the skeleton parts it was found to be of a woman and a man, and the possibility of murder of minor was ruled out,” Venugopal said.

Reading out a status report filed by the CBI, he said when experts of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) again spoke to the girls who had given the statement, the allegation of murder of minors was found to be false. Accepting the status report, the court allowed two officers to be relieved from the investigation team.

Venugopal said a probe was carried out on allegations of rape and sexual assault of minors and chargesheets had been filed before the courts concerned. He said the CBI had investigated cases of 17 shelter homes in Bihar and chargesheets had been filed in 13 of them, while four cases were closed as no evidence of wrongdoing was found after preliminary enquiry.

Venugopal said trial proceedings in one case was complete and judgment was likely to be pronounced on January 14. The court was hearing a PIL filed by Bihar resident Nivedita Jha. Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Shoeb Alam said some inmates had given clear statements that some girls had been murdered. “Merely because all the girls were found, does not rule the possibility that no murder has taken place. The probe agency should look into the allegations,” he said.

He said the court had, on June 3, 2019, ordered the CBI to complete its investigation on allegations of unnatural sexual assault under Section 377 of the IPC, offences under the Information Technology Act regarding video recordings of the alleged assault, role of outsiders and officials and charges of human trafficking.

Alam said the CBI’s status report was silent on all these. Several girls were allegedly sexually and physically assaulted at the shelter home run by an NGO. The issue had come to light following a social audit conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).