The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Bihar government over the alleged sexual abuse at shelter homes, saying the state had financed it in a way by giving public funds to the accused shelter homes. “Why did the state allow these to happen. The state gave funds… So in a way, the state financed these activities,” the bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, Deepak Gupta and K M Joseph said.
On August 2, the court had taken suo motu congnizance of the incident after receiving a letter from a Patna resident highlighting the developments at the Muzaffarpur shelter home. The bench had also issued notice to the Bihar government and the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The incident had come to light following an audit of shelter homes conducted by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
Appearing for TISS, advocate Vrinda Grover Tuesday told the bench that the audit report had flagged 15 shelter homes and not just the one in Muzaffarpur. Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar said FIRs had already been filed in the case of nine shelter homes, while the rest only saw departmental action as the matter mostly involved clashes between inmates.
The apex court ordered a blanket ban on publication of pictures and videos of child victims of sexual abuse across the country after it was told that media outlets had published images of such victims in Uttar Pradesh’s Deoria. The bench directed print, electronic and social media not to publish even blurred or morphed pictures of child victims of sexual abuse.
It also made it clear that only the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights can interview such children with assistance from trained counselors.
When told that the wife of one of the accused had revealed the identity of the Muzaffarpur victims on Facebook, the court said she had committed an offence under the POCSO Act and asked the state government to arrest her.
During the hearing, the court also expressed concern over rising incidents of rape in various parts of the country. Referring to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, Justice Lokur said that “girls are getting raped left, right and centre”.
“What do we do?” he asked, adding the numbers showed that four girls are getting raped every day, and one in every six hours.
The bench snubbed the Delhi Commission for Women whose counsel sought permission to intervene in the matter. “Don’t do politics here,” Justice Lokur told the counsel.
Amicus Curiae Aparna Bhat suggested that the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bengaluru could take care of the mental health of the Bihar victims, while the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Patna could attend to their clinical and medical needs. She said the TISS could take care of the need for social rehabilitation.
The court agreed to the suggestions and asked the three institutes to prepare a roadmap suggesting what could be done to improve the conditions of children in such shelter homes.
It asked the Centre to submit its report on a survey which was conducted on the 8,000-9,000 shelter homes across India. Bhat said the report had not been made public though the survey was complete. The court also asked the Bihar government and Union WCD Ministry to file affidavits by August 14 to appraise it of the status of the investigations.