Updated: November 29, 2018 3:03:25 am
Turning down protests from the Bihar government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the CBI to investigate the cases of alleged abuse of inmates at 16 more shelter homes in the state.
On Tuesday, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, Deepak Gupta and S Abdul Nazeer had asked the CBI counsel to inform the court whether the agency was willing to take up the probe.
CBI special public prosecutor (SPP) K Raghavacharyulu Wednesday informed the court that the agency is in-principle ready to take over the probe.
Taking note, the court ordered, “Learned Special Public Prosecutor for CBI has taken instructions from M Nageshwar Rao, director, in-charge of CBI, and he has informed us in court that, in principle, the CBI has no objection in investigating all cases mentioned in the category of ‘grave concerns’ by TISS in its report. The ‘grave concerns’ expressed by TISS relate to 17 (shelter) homes.”
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The bench noted that one of the 17 — the Muzaffarpur shelter home case — has already been transferred to the CBI, and stated, “The remaining instances mentioned…in the report of TISS should also be looked into by the CBI… all ‘grave concerns’ cases will be investigated only by CBI.”
Appearing for Bihar government, advocate Gopal Singh requested the court not to send the cases to the CBI. But the bench replied, “If the state government does its job properly, the matter would not go to CBI.”
Only some cases probed so far, light charges brought
The Bihar Police has so far filed cases only in matters of 10 shelter homes, whereas the TISS report had pointed out atrocities and abuse in 17 homes, including the one run by Brajesh Thakur in Muzaffarpur. The Muzaffarpur case is currently the only one that is being investigated by the CBI. Provisions of the stringent POCSO Act have been invoked in just three cases, and sections dealing with rape or sexual assault in only two. The state police and concerned district administrations do not have proper medical reports of the inmates of its 110 shelter homes, including the 17 homes in question. This is the background of the SC order Wednesday.
As Singh requested for more time to file a status report, the bench shot back, “Why? You had enough time. You did nothing.”
The counsel said, “This order will cast a doubt.”
Justice Lokur replied, “We don’t know.”
The court also made it clear that CBI officers who will probe these cases “will not be transferred without leave of this court”.
SPP Raghavacharyulu submitted that the existing team probing the Muzaffarpur case will have to be expanded to investigate the other cases. The court allowed this but ordered, “We make it absolutely clear that Mr A K Sharma, Additional Director, in-charge of the investigations, will continue to remain in-charge…the expanded team, including new members, will report to him directly.”
The bench told the Bihar Chief Secretary, who was present in court as per directions, that “any request made by the CBI for assistance should be promptly dealt with and acceded to”. It directed the probe agency to file a report on the status of the investigations as on January 31, 2019.
The court was hearing a PIL by Patna resident Nivedita Jha, highlighting the Muzaffarpur incident and seeking a court-monitored investigation.
Appearing for the petitioner, senior advocate Shekhar Naphade and advocate Fauzia Shakil had on Wednesday pointed out that the state police had invoked less serious charges against the accused in cases related to the other homes.
Taking stern note, the court pulled up the police, after which the government agreed to rectify the errors.
The state government’s counsel, Gopal Singh, told the court that rectifications had been carried out and submitted a communication he had received from the Inspector General of Police (Provision), Patna, to this effect.
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