SC entrusts all Bihar shelter home probes to CBI

The Supreme Court on Wednesday handed over the investigation into all the 17 cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of children at shelter homes in Bihar to the CBI.

The court said: "If the state government had done its job properly, the cases might not have gone to the CBI."

A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Deepak Gupta directed the Bihar government to provide all manpower, resources and logistical support to the Central Bureau of Investigation even as counsel for the state government made a last-ditch bid to keep the investigation with the state Police.

Allowing CBI to expand its existing team of investigators already probing the Muzaffarpur shelter home horror, the court said none of the members of the investigating team would be withdrawn without the permission of the court.

Initially the CBI counsel told the court that its earlier October 26 order directing the officiating Director M. Nageswara Rao to perform only the "routine tasks" was coming in the way of taking decision on its yesterday's suggestion to take over investigations in all the 17 cases of child abuse, including sexual abuse of children, at shelter homes in Bihar.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on October 26 directed Nageswara Rao "not to take any policy decision(s) or any major decision(s) and only perform routine tasks essential to keep the CBI functional."

Noting that the October 26 order was no impediment in CBI taking over the investigations in all the 17 cases of child abuse in Bihar shelter homes, Justice Lokur said, "This (October 26 order) does not say that all investigations will stop."

The court lambasted the Bihar government saying it has taken all the remedial steps and issued instructions to investigating officers to invoke and incorporate the stringent provisions of criminal law against the accused in Muzaffarpur shelter home horror case.

"Can such a direction be issued to an investigating officer? Can Inspector General of Police say invoke certain provisions against an accused and ask the investigating officer to add these sections (of criminal law)?" said Justice Lokur wondering by that corollary, the supervising officer can ask the investigating officer not to invoke certain provisions against the accused.

Justice Gupta said such directions to the investigating officer could be counter-productive at a later stage.

On Tuesday, the court slammed the Bihar government for not invoking the stringent provision of penal code and that of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) against the accused.

The court appeared unimpressed as senior counsel Gopal Singh patting the Bihar government said "The court gave us 24 hours, but we have made rectifications in 12 hours by invoking stringent provisions of the criminal law against the accused."

Brushing aside the resistance by Bihar government, with State Chief Secretary present in the court, on handing over the investigation to CBI, Justice Lokur said, "We have seen what you have done." Gopal Singh had said, "This kind of order (transfeering investigation to CBI) will cast doubts" on the ability of the state police.