The Supreme Court Thursday ordered that the sensational Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual assault case be transferred from Bihar to a New Delhi court which would conclude the trial within six months, saying "enough is enough" and the children cannot be treated like this.
Directing the Nitish Kumar government to render all assistance in the transfer of the case and subsequent trial, the apex court came down heavily on the sexual and physical abuse of children in shelter homes across in the state.
Several girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused at an NGO-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur and the issue had come to light following a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took a grim view of the of the progress made so far in the case and said it will now be transferred to a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court at Saket district court complex here.
The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said the transfer of records to a Delhi court be completed within two weeks and the trial be completed within six months by holding preferably "day-to-day" trial.
"Enough is enough. Children cannot be treated like this. You cannot let your officers to treat children this way. Spare the children," the bench said.
At the outset, the bench Thursday asked questions as to how many shelter homes are there and how they are funded and the extent and nature of government control in running them.
"We will not ask you (state government) to file an affidavit. Affidavit means two weeks time. Answer the question one to one. Tell us the exact details," it said.
"We are asking you (lawyer) some questions. If you are in a position to answer, then answer, otherwise we will call your chief secretary or the officer who is conversant with the facts. By 3 pm your chief secretary will be here. In any case Patna is well connected," the bench said.
The bench said that it was asking questions because it is entitled to know from the the government, which is running the state, the status of kids living at shelter homes.
"Is this the way you treat the children at shelter homes. You cannot let the officers treat the children the way they are treating them right now... the questions will get enlarged now," the bench said had asked the state counsel to be ready with the fact and figure at 2 PM.
Later in the afternoon, the bench said that the Bihar shelter home issue would be taken up with a similar pending case.
The bench was apprised by lawyer Aparna Bhat, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, that the CBI has filed the charge sheet in the Muzaffarpur case on December 19, last year and the trial was yet to begin.
Earlier the apex court had directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the probe into allegations of physical and sexual abuse of inmates at 16 shelter homes in Bihar, besides transferring of the Muzaffarpur sexual assault case.
While transferring the cases to CBI, the top court had dismissed the state government's request not to do so.
The top court, while directing CBI to probe into the allegations of physical and sexual abuse of inmates in 16 shelter homes in Bihar, had taken note of the report of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) which had highlighted rampant sexual and physical abuse of inmates in several shelter homes in the state.
On the TISS report, the apex court had said it raises grave concern about 17 shelter homes in Bihar and the CBI must look into all of them. Of these, the Muzaffarpur case is already being looked into by the CBI.
In the Muzaffarpur shelter home case, an FIR was lodged on May 31, 2018 against 11 people following the TISS report.
The probe was later taken over by the CBI and so far, 17 people have been arrested.
The amicus curiae had also told the court that there were 1,028 shelter homes across India where instances of sexual and physical abuse have been reported.
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