No evidence of children's murder in Muzaffarpur shelter home case: CBI to SC

New Delhi, Jan 8 (PTI) There is no evidence of murder of children in Bihar's Muzaffarpur shelter home, the CBI told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The probe agency informed the apex court that two skeletons were recovered, which were later, in forensic investigation, found to be of a woman and a man. It said all 35 girls, who were alleged to be murdered were later traced by the investigation agency and found to be alive.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde accepted the status report of the CBI and allowed two officers to be relieved from the investigation team.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, told a bench, also comprising Justice B R Gavai and Justice Surya Kant, that inmates had given statements that murder of children had taken place and bodies were 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.

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.

Venugopal said the investigation agency traced the 35 girls who were alleged to be murdered and found them alive. He told the bench that the probe was carried out on allegations of rape and sexual assault of children and charge sheets have been filed before the courts concerned.

The attorney general said the CBI has investigated cases of 17 shelter homes in Bihar and charge sheets have been filed in 13 of them, while four cases were closed when after preliminary enquiry no evidence of any wrongdoing was found.

Venugopal said trial proceedings in one of the case was complete and judgement was likely to be pronounced in January 14.

Advocate Shoeb Alam appearing for petitioner Nivedita Jha said that under section 161 of CrPC the minor girls have clearly given statement that inmates of shelter home were murdered.

Contradicting the attorney general's statements, he said, 'Merely because all the girls were found, does not rule the possibility that no murder has taken place and probe agency should look into the allegations'.

Alam said on June 3, 2019, the apex court had ordered the CBI to complete investigation in three months on four counts -- allegations of unnatural sexual assault under section 377 of the IPC, offences under the Information Technology Act regarding the video recordings of the alleged assault on girls at the shelter home, role of outsiders and officials who were involved and facilitated the sexual assaults on the inmates after administering them intoxicants and human trafficking.

He added that the agency had not investigated all these four aspects and the status report of CBI is silent on them. Alam also said that the petitioner has no objection to relieving of two officers, who were part of investigation team, but the agency should disclose the status of investigation on these four aspects.

The bench then said it would like to hear the petitioner on the application of CBI seeking permission for utilising the services of investigating team in other official matter as the probe in the shelter home case is over.

It asked the petitioner to file a reply on the application of the CBI and allowed the two officers -- 1996 batch IPS Bhanu Bhaskar and Devendra Singh, head of special crime branch, Patna -- be relieved from the investigation team.

The CBI, in its status report filed on June 6, said no incriminating evidence proving commission of any criminal offence could be gathered in four preliminary enquiries and as such no FIR has been registered.

The agency said that it had forwarded a self-contained note to the Bihar chief secretary for taking actions against erring government servants including 25 district magistrates in all the 17 cases.

It had also said the Bihar government has been requested to take departmental action, and action of cancellation of registration, and blacklisting of NGOs concerned by providing them the result of the probe, that is the CBI report.

Several girls were allegedly sexually and physically assaulted at the shelter home run by an NGO in Bihar's Muzaffarpur. The issue had come to light following a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

Following the report, a petition was filed in the apex court seeking lodging of an FIR and court-monitored probe by an independent agency into the allegations.

The plea filed by journalist Nivedita Jha through advocate Fauzia Shakil had 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'.

The apex court had earlier directed the CBI to complete its probe into the alleged murder of girls at the shelter home and asked it to file a status report. It had transferred the case from Bihar to a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court in Saket District Court complex in Delhi.

The top court had also directed the CBI to probe into allegations of physical and sexual abuse of inmates in 16 other shelter homes in Bihar which were flagged in the TISS report. PTI MNL PKS RKS MNL NSD NSD

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