Muzaffarpur Shelter Homes Case: SC hints at transferring investigation to CBI

Muzaffarpur Shelter Homes Case: SC hints at transferring investigation to CBI

The Supreme Court today pulled up the Bihar government for its lax approach towards investigating the instances of violence and abuse in Shelter Homes in Bihar.

Observing that the State Police was not doing its job as was expected, the Court also expressed its inclination to transfer the investigation in the incidents of the shelter homes in Bihar to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI is already in-charge of probing the Muzaffarpur case.

As it was found, serious offences do not find a place in the FIRs filed by the State Police in cases concerning five shelter homes in Bihar; the charges pressed are of relatively smaller gravity. A report by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) had flagged 15 such shelter homes in Bihar to be of “grave concern”. This includes the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home where the terrible instances of sexual abuse were found to have taken place.

In its affidavit, the State of Bihar has admitted having filed FIRs in cases relating to some shelter homes while no FIR has been filed in instances in four of these homes.

The Bench of Justices Madan Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta expressed shock at this approach, calling it “tragic”.

Senior Counsel Shekhar Naphade told the Court that in an instance where a young boy was sodomized at one of these homes, the FIR has mentioned provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO Act) alone, giving Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code a complete miss.

“…because in 377 the punishment is for life”, Naphade said.

Justice Lokur came down heavily on the State of Bihar saying,

“It is really shameful. You may have filed an affidavit but, if a child is sodomized and you say this is nothing, this is not 377, then this is shameful. How can you do this?”

Justice Deepak Gupta, echoing Justice Lokur’s thoughts, added,

 “When a reliable institute like TISS is saying this case is a case of sexual abuse, it needs serious investigation.”

When Advocate Gopal Singh, appearing for the State of Bihar, submitted that he would ensure personally that the lapses would be rectified, Justice Gupta highlighted,

“Normal tendency of the Police is to have more serious offences in the FIR and here the FIR is charged with the minimum of the offence… It is unfortunate. Every time I read this file, I’m hot by the tragedy of the case… it is tragic.

This is what is the attitude of the State of Bihar. FIR has to be filed, if you don’t file an FIR, how will this offence be investigated?”

The Court granted a period of 24 hours to the State of Bihar to rectify the FIRs and set the next hearing for tomorrow. When Singh pleaded for a week’s time, Justice Lokur immediately retorted,

“What are you saying? A child is sodomized and you’re saying I’ll file an FIR on Monday?

If an offence has happened, then FIR has to be filed immediately; or else the accused will say there was a delay in filing an FIR, they have cooked up everything.”

Commending the CBI investigation in the Muzaffarpur case, Justice Lokur asked Singh if the State Police could investigate the case in a similar manner. Favouring the transfer of the investigation to the CBI, Justice Lokur said,

“Looks like the state police is going soft on this…your police can’t arrest people, can’t file FIRs.”

The Court directed Public Prosecutor K Raghavacharyulu, appearing for the CBI, to take instructions in the case.

The Court will hear the case next on Wednesday, November 28, when it will decide whether the case must be transferred to CBI or not.

On the last date of hearing, the Court had pulled up the Bihar Police for its failure to arrest the ex-cabinet minister Manju Verma, who was implicated in the Muzaffarpur Shelter Homes case.

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