The Supreme Court on Monday said it was “quite shocked” to know Bihar Police had not been able to trace former state cabinet minister Manju Verma, who resigned in wake of the Muzaffarpur shelter home scandal, and summoned the state Director General of Police to explain this.
“We are quite shocked that a cabinet minister cannot be traced by police… It’s difficult to believe… We would like the DGP to explain to us why such an important person cannot be traced,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said, and asked the DGP to appear on November 27.
The court also summoned the chief secretary to explain what it termed “widespread mismanagement of shelter homes” in the state.
Verma resigned as social welfare minister in the Bihar government following the Muzaffarpur case, in which several women inmates of a shelter home were allegedly raped and sexually abused, after it came to light that her husband Chandrashekhar Verma had spoken to Brajesh Thakur, the prime accused, several times.
At the outset, the bench asked, “Has the lady (Verma) been arrested?” The counsel appearing for the Bihar government replied, “We have not been able to trace her.” The counsel added that proceedings to declare her a proclaimed offender had been initiated.
“Fantastic. How come a (former) cabinet minister is not traceable?… You will have to explain to us why a cabinet minister is absconding and nobody can give any explanation… Do you understand the seriousness?”
The bench, however, made it clear that if Verma is arrested before November 27, when it will hear the matter next, the DGP need not appear before it.
A counsel appearing for petitioner Nivedita Jha then raised the issue of the state of affairs in 14 other shelter homes in Bihar, which was highlighted in a report submitted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to the Bihar government in March.
Justice Lokur said he had read in newspapers that two girls had run away from a shelter home and added, “It’s a complete breakdown.”
Advocate Aparna Bhat, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, said the Child Welfare Committee was not functioning properly in Bihar. “Even the police is not functioning in Bihar,” the bench observed.
On October 31, the SC had expressed displeasure over the failure of police in arresting Verma, whose anticipatory bail plea was dismissed by the Patna High Court on October 9.
The bench is considering a PIL on the alleged abuse of girls in the shelter home. On August 2, the court had taken suo motu cognizance of the incident after it received a letter from a Patna resident highlighting the developments in the shelter home.
The court had asked the police to investigate Verma and her husband after large quantity of arms and ammunition was recovered from their residence during raids conducted in connection with the sexual abuse case.