Five days after it described as “scary”, “horrible” and “terrible” the findings of the CBI team probing the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case, the Supreme Court Tuesday ordered that the main accused Brajesh Thakur be shifted to a high-security prison in Patiala.
The court also pulled up Bihar Police for failing to arrest former state minister Manju Verma under the Arms Act, after the CBI found over 50 live cartridges during a raid on premises linked to her in Begusarai.
Pointing out that Verma’s anticipatory bail application was dismissed by the Patna High Court on October 9, the court described the failure to arrest her as a “horrible state of affairs”.
Following a plea by the CBI, which said last week that the main accused was “influential” and that a mobile phone was found in his possession inside the Muzaffarpur jail, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, Deepak Gupta and S Abdul Nazeer said: “Mr Brajesh Thakur be transferred to the prison in Patiala where he will be kept in watch by the Superintendent of Police. The movement of Brajesh Thakur should take place today or tomorrow on the outside.” Thakur had been shifted to the Bhagalpur jail last week.
On Tuesday, it was the court’s remarks on the former Bihar minister Manju Verma’s role that formed a key portion of the hearing. Last week, the bench had asked the state police to inform it about the status of the probe and the whereabouts of Verma’s husband, Chandrashekhar Verma. Following the discovery of the live cartridges, the CBI did not name Manju Verma in the FIR and instead booked her husband, who surrendered before a Begusarai court two days ago.
Manju Verma resigned in August as Social Welfare Minister after a telephone conversation linking her husband to the main accused Thakur became public.
On Tuesday, after perusing the police report, Justice Lokur turned to senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, representing Bihar, and said: “All kinds of weapons are found…What about drugs?…Some sanity, sir… these girls (in the shelter) are being injected with drugs so that they can be raped? What is this going on?”
Justice Lokur was referring to findings that inmates of the shelter home for girls run by Thakur’s NGO allegedly sedated the victims before they were sexually abused.
Kumar said: “It is indefensible”. Responding to the statement, Justice Lokur said: “If it’s indefensible, what have you done? What steps have you taken to arrest her (Manju Verma)? Just because she was a Cabinet minister doesn’t make her above the law… Why has she not been arrested? Nobody is bothered about the law.”
With Kumar seeking time to obtain instructions on Verma, the court listed the matter for hearing Wednesday.
The court also sought a list of members of the CBI team investigating the case after Advocate Aparna Bhat, who is assisting the bench, raised apprehensions that they may be changed.
The bench is hearing a PIL on the alleged abuse of girls in the shelter home, which was highlighted in a social audit conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). An FIR was lodged on May 31 against 11 people, including Thakur.
On August 2, the court took suo motu cognisance of the case after it received a letter from a Patna resident highlighting developments in the shelter home. The probe was later taken over by the CBI and 17 people have been arrested.
Manju Verma did not respond to texts and calls from The Indian Express seeking comment. She is a second-time MLA of the JD(U) from the Cheria Bariapur constituency.
– (With ENS, Patna)