The Supreme Court order shifting probe into allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Bihar shelter homes to the CBI came a day after it pulled up the Bihar government for “invoking less serious charges” in cases against the shelters.
On Wednesday, Bihar Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar directed police to “add relevant stronger sections”, including under the POCSO (Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences) Act in cases where the victims are minors.
A Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) social audit report that examined 110 Bihar homes had suggested abuse and atrocities at 17 of them. The Bihar Police has so far lodged cases against only 10, including the Muzaffarpur shelter home run by Brajesh Thakur, who has since been arrested. Of these 10 cases, charges of rape have been applied only in the Muzaffarpur case and POCSO provisions in two other cases.
The CBI is already investigating the Muzaffarpur case, in which medical reports of over 30 girls had indicated either sexual abuse or said that “sexual contact cannot be ruled out”.
The TISS report, submitted in April 2018, had talked of sexual abuse at some boys’ homes, atrocities and abuse against children at an observation home, beating up of children at another home, and highlighted the pathetic living conditions at three adoption agencies, among other cases. In all, the report had expressed “grave concerns” over 17 shelter homes, while not indicating sexual abuse at all places.
Till August, the Bihar Police had filed cases against 10 of them. With the Bihar government now assuring that “relevant stronger sections” would be added, officials looking into several cases said they were “re-examining them”.
One of the petitioners who had filed a PIL over abuse at shelter homes in the Patna High Court, Santosh Kumar, said: “The Bihar government should have conducted medical examination of all inmates. Since media focus has been mainly on Muzaffarpur, the state government went lax with the other cases.”
Till August, the Bihar Police filed cases against 10 of them:
1) Muzaffarpur girls’ home: The first case, lodged on May 31, under IPC charges covering criminal conspiracy, rape, wrongful restraint, and under provisions of POCSO.
2) Motihari boys’ shelter: Case lodged on July 14, under the Juvenile Justice Act and POCSO, but not mentioning any sexual assault. A Motihari police officer who refused to be named said, “As there were no specific complaints of abuse, charges of unnatural sex were not added… We are looking at medical reports of the boys again. There was no suggestion of any physical abuse in the last medical report.”
3) Munger open shelter case: Case registered on July 23 under provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act and Child Adolescent Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. Munger police officer said, “We are talking to the inmates again to know if there was any sexual abuse.” The district programme officer Rekha Kumari said: “As we had complaints of poor upkeep of the home only, no medical examination was needed. There had been no complaint regarding any atrocitty or abuse”. Asked if any general meducal examination was done, she said: “No”.
4) Bhagalpur boys home: Case lodged on July 18 under the Juvenile Justice Act. Said a police officer: “An officer has been talking to inmates again. There had been no specific complaints from anyone.”
5) Gaya boys’ home: Case lodged on July 24 under IPC sections dealing with voluntarily causing hurt, wrongful restraint, wrongful confinement, provoking breach of peace and criminal intimidation, as well as under Juvenile Justice Act provisions. “We will see if medical examination of the boys can be done again and if it can be confirmatory at this stage,” said a Gaya police officer.
6) Araria observation home: Case filed on June 5 under Juvenile Justice Act and IPC sections dealing with voluntarily causing hurt, causing hurt by dangerous weapons, wrongful restraint, provoking breach of trust, and criminal intimidation, at Araria Town police station.
7) Patna shelter: Case lodged on August 4 under IPC sections regarding criminal breach of trust by a public servant, cheating, assault or use of criminal force against women, provoking breach of trust, and criminal conspiracy.
8) Motihari short stay home: Case lodged in East Champaran on August 4 under IPC sections covering voluntarily causing hurt, wrongful restraint and wrongful confinement, and under POCSO. “Since there was no specific sexual abuse complaint, rape section was not invoked. But we have been asked to re-examine it,” said an Araria police officer.
9) A short stay home at Bhabhua, Kaimur: Case registered on June 2 under IPC sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (causing hurt), 354 (attempting to outrage modesty) and 504 (provoking breach of peace).
10) Beggars’ home: Case lodged at Muzaffarpur,Muzaffarpur, under IPC sections 323 (causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 504 (provoking breach of peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation).