The Supreme Court today (Wednesday, November 28) transferred to the CBI probe into the “gamut of allegations” involving 17 Bihar shelter homes for children, destitute women, beggars and senior citizens.
Yesterday the court had expressed unhappiness at finding that FIRs so far registered in these cases mention only petty offences and none of the serious offences find mention in the FIRs so far lodged in cases of abuse and torture in the 17 shelter homes. It had given the State government 24 hours to repair the situation or hand over the case to the CBI.
The CBI is already investigating the case of sexual abuse of children in a Muzaffarpur shelter home in the State as per apex court orders.
The apex court slammed the Nitish Kumar government in the presence of the Bihar Chief Secretary for “not doing its job properly.”
The State, represented by advocates Gopal Singh and Manish Kumar, repeatedly urged the court to not transfer the cases to the CBI, but the court remained firm.
“If the State government had done its job properly, these cases would not have gone to the CBI. You had enough time, yet you did not do your job properly,” Justice Madan B Lokur told the Bihar government.
The last straw was when the court realised that FIRs so far registered in these cases mention only petty offences. None of the serious offences alleged find mention in the 11 FIRs so far lodged in cases of abuse and torture in the 17 shelter homes. Yesterday the court had given the State government 24 hours to repair the situation or hand over the case to the CBI.
The court called the state government’s behaviour “shameful” and “inhuman” for not invoking more stringent sections of Indian law (when local police filed FIRs). In the Muzaffarpur shelter home, girls were regularly raped, beaten and terrorised, according to a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
“It’s very shameful,” Justice Lokur said. “If a child is being sodomised and you say it’s nothing. How can you do this? It’s inhuman.”
The court said yesterday that it may hand over the investigation of the cases to the CBI, which was earlier probing only one – the Muzaffarpur shelter home case.
On Wednesday, the Bihar side came up with a “communication” from a police higher-up to the investigation officer, blandly asking the latter to include some serious offences in the FIRs.
The “communication” had been meant to be a last resort for the State to retain the investigation with the State Police, but the court refused to even take note of the letter. Bihar government then pleaded with the court to give it a week’s time to file a status report before transferring the case to the CBI.
“When do you want to give the status report? Take one or two months, but we will transfer the investigation to the CBI today,” Justice Lokur snubbed the State’s plea.
The CBI, however, seemed reluctant initially to take up the investigation into the 17 shelter homes. Acting CBI Director, M Nageshwar Rao, through the agency counsel, informed the Bench about a bar imposed on him by the Supreme Court to not take any major or policy decisions.
Rao had been earlier ordered by the Supreme Court to restrict his official decisions to only routine tasks until the cloud over the removal of his former boss, exiled CBI chief Alok Verma, was cleared by the court.
“So, all investigations should stop then? What is this? That bar has nothing to do with this case” Justice Lokur reacted, asking the CBI counsel to ring up Rao and get his confirmation over phone about taking up the probe into the 17 homes.
The agency counsel was back shortly and conveyed Rao’s “in-principle” agreement to conduct the probe.
The court directed the Bihar government to fulfill any request from the CBI team for additional manpower or infrastructure. It ordered that no officer in the team should be transferred during the pendency of the probe. The probe team would be led by senior CBI officer, AK Sharma. The court asked the CBI to file a status report in February on the progress of the investigation till January 31, 2019.
The CBI, already probing the Muzaffarpur shelter home case, told the court the agency is expected to file a chargesheet by December 7.