Shameful and Inhuman: SC on Bihar’s handling of shelter home rapes

The Supreme Court questioned the registration of FIRs only under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) and not under relevant sections of the IPC.

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday hauled the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government over the coals for not filing sodomy and abuse cases against shelter homes indicted in a study report earlier this year.

A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur faulted the Bihar government for filing “soft” FIRs in the cases, which deal with the sexual, mental and physical exploitation of boys and girls lodged in lodged in nine shelter homes in the state.

The court called the state government’s behaviour “shameful” and “inhuman” for not invoking more stringent sections of the Indian law when local police filed FIRs in the matter. Specifically, the court asked why Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was not invoked in the FIRs.

The FIRs were registered after a report by the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Tiss) revealed how boys and girls at shelter homes in Bihar were sexually exploited.

“Only God can save,” the top court remarked, indicating that it might transfer all abuse cases flagged in the TISS report to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

“What are you (Bihar government) doing? It’s shameful. If the child is sodomised you say it’s nothing? How can you do this? It’s inhuman. We were told that matter will be looked with great seriousness, this is seriousness? Every time I read this file it’s tragic,” the court said.

Over the last few weeks, the Supreme Court has taken the Bihar government to task on several occasions for its handling of the probe into the Muzaffarpur shelter home. Over 30 of the 42 girls at the short-stay home were alleged to have been sexually abused.

It was only after the top court delivered a sharp warning to the police that Manju Verma, a former minister in Nitish Kumar cabinet, eventually surrendered. Verma was on the run after the CBI recovered ammunition from her home during a raid in connection with the sexual abuse scandal.

Verma had stepped down as social welfare minister in August after her husband, Chandrashekhar Verma, came under scan for allegedly visiting the Muzaffarpur shelter home multiple times.

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