Supreme Court takes suo moto cognizance in the heinous Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case

The Supreme Court has today taken suo moto cognizance of the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case and issued a notice to the Bihar government and the ministry of woman and child development. According to reports, the apex court has sought a detailed reply on the issue.

The Supreme Court has also raised concerns over the images of child victims being circulated in the media and their identities being revealed. The court has banned the media from broadcasting the images of minor victims even in blurred or morphed form.

The case of children of shelter homes in Muzaffarpur being sexually abused and tortured came to light a few days ago. Underage girls residing at the Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti shelter home has alleged rape and torture on the officials and employees of the shelter home. Most of the girls are speech impaired and according to a recent medical report, 34 girls were allegedly raped after being given sedatives with food at night. Any girls resisting sexual abused were being beaten and starved. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences workers had played a crucial role in bringing the long-ongoing abuse to notice. TISS had reportedly notified the state government over sexual abuse being rampant in a number of short-stay homes in the state back in April.

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So far, four shelter homes run by the Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti have been revealed to have sexually abused their inhabitants. 11 people, along with Brijesh Thakur, the owner of the NGO have been arrested so far. The Bihar police had lodged an FIR in this case on May 31. However, it is reported that even after the allegations and FIR, social welfare department of Bihar government had sanctioned another project to the same NGO.

Horrid details of abuse, rape and torture have emerged from the case. Recently, another FIR was lodged against Brijesh Thakur when news came to light that 11 women and 4 children were missing from another shelter home run by his NGO. The shelter home in Chaturbhuj sthan in Muzaffarpur had all its inmates, 11 women and 4 children missing. The involvement of the state welfare department in protecting and shielding Brijesh Thakur is being suspected because even though the state welfare department was aware of the women and children missing, no FIR had been registered for almost 2 months. The police were also informed that one girl was beaten to death and buried in the premises of the shelter home.

Reports state that 3 girls have had abortions while 3 are currently pregnant. The shelter home reportedly had a separate room that functioned as OT for carrying out forced abortions. The shelter home was reportedly run as a brothel where girls were tormented almost every night. The girls have even alleged that on occasions, they were even taken outside for a night and returned the next day. They have accused Brijesh Thakur and the shelter home staff for beating and starving them. The district child protection officer is also among those arrested.

On 28th July, Bihar police have submitted a 16-page charge sheet in the POCSO court over the matter. Public prosecutor Sangita Sahni has stated that the shelter home effectively ran as a brothel. The charge sheet reportedly states that there were 67 types of drugs that were recovered from the shelter home, including injections for epilepsy. The girls have principally accused one ‘Tondwale Netaji, one ‘Moochwale uncle’ and one ‘Hunterwale uncle’ as the main persons who have sexually exploited them. The charge sheet also includes the statements of 32 girls.

After a nation-wide uproar and raised questions on the state welfare department, the CBI has taken over the case. CBI has reportedly registered an FIR on the issue on Sunday and a 12 member team is currently camping in Muzaffarpur.

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