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Bihar: Pressure Rises for High-level Probe Into Patna Shelter Home Abuse Case

With memories of the infamous Muzaffarpur shelter home case still fresh, opposition parties and civil society members push for better investigation in the Patna case.
Bihar: Pressure Rises for High-level Probe Into Patna Shelter Home Abuse Case

Image Courtesy: PTI

Patna: Pressure is mounting day by day for a high-level probe into the allegations of sexual abuse at the shelter home in Patna. As opposition leaders attack the Nitish Kumar-led National Democratic Alliance government over the shelter home case, a public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Patna High Court for a probe under its supervision.

The petitioner, Shushma Kumari, has sought court direction for action against officials for negligence towards protecting minor children at the shelter home and setting up a monitoring committee by the member secretary of Bihar State Legal Services Authority for the proper care of inmates.

Similarly, a senior advocate of Patna high court, Manibhusan Pratap Sengar, has written a letter to the Chief Justice of India seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation-led probe in the unlawful affairs of the shelter home.

Sengar has informed the apex court that on January 30, a video went viral, in which a destitute woman alleged that she and people like her who were residing in the aftercare home were being forced after being sedated to submit themselves to the immoral acts of the wrongdoers. "Humanity and constitutional values together with the dignities of destitute and hapless woman and for the justice, a CBI inquiry is required, it seems. Hence, it is my humble request to kindly take cognisance of the serious and burning issue and allow the CBI inquiry in the same," he submitted.

Early this week, the Patna High Court took suo motu cognisance of a viral video wherein former resident of Uttar Raksha Grih, a shelter home for destitute women at Gaighat in Patna, accused the superintendent of facilitating their sexual abuse. The court also sought a reply from the state's social welfare department at the next hearing on February 7.

On Friday, a victim of the shelter home filed a petition in the Patna High Court, seeking its intervention to lodge an FIR against the poor state of affairs at the facility and alleged sexual exploitation of inmates.

Her advocate Minu Kumari said the survivor also sought compensation of Rs 50 lakh and a job from the state government.

Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal and Left parties have targeted the state government for not registering an FIR in the incident and giving shelter home superintendent Vandana Gupta a clean chit.

Earlier, Meena Tiwari, leader of the All India Progressive Women's Association, and Rampari, leader of the All India Democratic Women's Association, demanded the government set up a committee headed by a sitting Judge of the Patna HC to probe the allegations of sexual abuse at the shelter home.

Similarly, Loktantrik Jan Pahal leader Kanchan Bala demanded that the court set up a committee headed by a sitting woman Judge to probe the incident. Bala demanded the immediate sacking of Gupta and an FIR against her in view of the serious allegations for a free and fair probe into the incident. The social welfare department, which had dismissed the case as baseless, has not set up an inquiry committee so far.

According to sources in the government, the social welfare department officials have been directed to prepare a reply on this issue to be submitted to the court next Monday.

However, women activists here widely see the latest sexual abuse incident at the shelter home similar to the infamous Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case that hit the headlines in 2018. The case was brought to light after a 100-page report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, was made public following a Supreme Court order. In its report, TISS reported that sexual abuse, varying in forms and degree of intensity, was prevalent in almost all shelter homes in Bihar.

The state government had commissioned an audit by the TISS in 2017, which submitted the report to the social welfare department in April 2018.

It was the TISS report that pointed fingers at the shelter home (Balika Girih) in Muzaffarpur run by Brajesh Thakur, who is now the main accused in the case. Thakur has been jailed along with nine others in the case.

The probe also pointed fingers at the then Bihar's Social Welfare Minister Manju Verma, who had to resign. Pressure had mounted on her following media reports revealing that the mobile phone details of Thakur showed that he had spoken to Verma's husband 17 times from January to June this year.

Taking serious note of the role of the NGO in sexual abuse at Muzaffarpur shelter home, the state government's social welfare department decided to take over the administration of all shelter homes across the state, replacing the NGOs.

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