Legislation UpdatesNotifications

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that 15 minor girls have been rescued from a Shelter Home in Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu following complaints of sexual abuse against the In-Charge of the Home. The In-Charge of the Shelter Home has been arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The rescued girls have been shifted to a government facility and further investigation in the case is underway.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the news report, if true, amount to violation of human rights of the victim minor girls. Accordingly, it has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu calling for a detailed report in the matter, within four weeks including action taken against the guilty and steps taken for relief, rehabilitation and counseling of the victims.

It has also observed that this is not the single incident of its kind which has come to the notice of the Commission. In the recent past the Commission has come across several incidents of such nature, occurred in various parts of the country, where the girl inmates have been sexually abused in custody either by staff or the persons who run the Shelter Homes. The incidents of sexual abuse of innocent minor girls at the hands of their custodian, are shameful and also call for review of the monitoring mechanism by the state authorities. The police and the social welfare departments of the states have to come together to ensure strict compliance of the procedure laid down under law with regard to running Shelter Homes, especially for the women.

According to the media report, carried on the 30th January, 2019, the District Collector, reportedly visited the Home and sealed the premises. The issue came to light as some of the inmates informed the authorities about alleged sexual abuse by the accused, during a safety campaign. Reportedly, the victims have alleged in writings that the In-Charge of the Home, made them watch pornographic content before abusing them.

[Press Release dt.: 01-02-2019]

NHRC

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ., while delivering an order in concerning the extremely disturbing “Bihar Shelter Home Rape case” highlighted few significant pointers to be noted by the CBI in their investigation along with the removal of blanket ban on media in regard to the reporting of the case.

The Bench on considering the status report filed by CBI in the Patna High Court, placed down a few pointers which needed to be looked upon carefully, which were as follows:

  • Mr Brajesh Kumar Thakur who is the in charge of Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti is a very influential person and that is the reason people in the neighborhood are scared to complain against him. CBI needs to look into the antecedents, connections, and influence of the person concerned.
  • Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti has received for about 4.5 Crores from the State of Bihar over a period of ten years for their activities. It is necessary that the IT department should look into the income and assets of Mr Brajesh Thakur and indeed of the NGO.
  • The next pointer to the list was that the Status report states the transfer of some girls by the Social Welfare Department from the Shelter Home. The transfer indicates that the Social Welfare Department was aware of the unsavoury activities in the Shelter Home and that may have been the reason for the transfer of the victims. Therefore, in this regard, CBI should seize the record of the said department and further carry out the investigation. Court asked the State of Bihar to file an affidavit stating the reason for the transfer of those girls.

Further, the Court while removing the blanket ban order passed by the Patna High Court in regard to the media reporting stated that “Entire issue needs to be balanced and looked at in the broader view of the criminal justice and freedom of the press.” Therefore, the Court asked for the assistance of Press Council of India, News Broadcasting Standards Authority, Editors Guild and the Indian Broadcasting Federation.

Concluding the order, the bench stated that in the interest of all the victims of sexual abuse and violence, we restrain the electronic media from telecasting or broadcasting the images of the victims in morphed or blurred form also the victims should not be interviewed. The matter is listed for 04-10-2018. [Nivedita Jha v. State of Bihar, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1616, order dated 20-09-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur, Deepak Gupta and KM Joseph, JJ., in its order regarding the horrific chain of events that transpired in the shelter home in State of Bihar, had issued a few directions in its earlier order and has again expressed deep concern in this regard on hearing out the submissions of the learned Amicus Curiae.

In the present order, the Supreme Court bench clearly stated that the point of concern majorly is about the protection of children, particularly girls in homes run by NGOs. The learned Amicus Curiae has submitted that:

  • NIMHANS, Bengaluru should address the mental and psychiatric health of the children in shelter home.
  • Clinical and Medical aspect to be addressed by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Patna.
  • Rehabilitation and re-integration of the children should be left to be addressed by TISS.

All the above-stated suggestions of the Amicus Curiae were accepted by the Supreme Court and the bench directed all the above authorities to prepare a brief course of action and place it on record. Further, the Court required the Ministry of Women and Child Development to inform the steps to be taken in order to ensure that the sexual abuse of children does not take place in the shelter homes and other child care homes across the country.

The Bench reiterated its discussion in regard to no publication of the photographs of the victims of sexual abuse in electronic, print and social media. Also, no interviews of such victims should take place. Another point noted was the revelation of the victim’s identity by one of the accused’s wife in the Muzaffarpur incident for which Amicus Curiae shall disclose all the other names who have done so, and in accordance to law appropriate action shall be taken against them.

The matter is listed for 14-08-2018. [Sampurna Behrua v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 928, Order dated 07-08-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by media, Supreme Court restrained the telecasting of images and videos of the minor rape victims at a shelter home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district by media.

The bench comprising of MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ, directed the media not to interview the victims and stated that “they cannot be compelled to relive trauma again and again.” The bench added that the images or videos should not be published in blurred or morphed form as well.

Hence, in this regard the Supreme Court bench has issued notices to the Bihar Government, Women and Child Development Ministry and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

[Source: Hindustan Times]

Case BriefsTribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

National Human Rights Commission: NHRC has taken suo motu cognizance of a media report that in a State funded Shelter Home at Muzaffarpur in Bihar, at least 16 girls were raped. 44 girls were living in the home run by an NGO under the supervision of the Social Welfare Department. Reportedly, the Child Protection Officer of Muzaffarpur District has been arrested in connection with alleged sexual exploitation of girls in this Shelter Home. The Commission has issued notices to the Chief Secretary and the DGP, Government of Bihar, directing them to enquire into the matter and submit a report within two weeks.

The Commission has observed that the contents of the media reports, if true, raise a serious issue of violation of human rights of the victim girls. The Shelter Home is supposed to give security and protection to the victim girls but under no stretch of imagination the Shelter Home can be a playing ground of predators for their monstrous and vulturous activities, which are against the human dignity and sobriety of the women. However, in the instant case, the girls have apparently become victim of rape at the instance of the protectors in the Shelter Home, as the Government officials and the Shelter Home staff have been allegedly found to be involved in the incident. The State and the local administration have failed miserably to protect the rights and dignity of the victim girls.
Accordingly, the State authorities have also been asked that their report should also contain the reply to the following specific points:

1. Whether any approval was given by the Social Welfare Department to run the Shelter Home in question and what is the mechanism to monitor its functioning. If any monitoring mechanism is at place, why such incident took place;

2. Whether any of the victims belong to Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe. If yes, whether the police has registered FIR under relevant sections of SC/ST Act and whether steps have been taken to pay monetary relief to such victims under SC/ST (POA) Rules;

3. Whether any Govt. official, as reported in the media, has been found to have involved in the incident. If yes, the details thereof be sent.

They are also expected to ensure that immediate legal action is taken against the accused persons and necessary arrangements/steps be taken for relief and rehabilitation of the victim girls.
According to the media report carried on the 24th July, 2018, the girls have been shifted to other shelter home after the incident came to light. The medical report of 21 of the girls have been submitted to the Muzaffarpur police which confirms 16 cases of rape. The report further states that one of the inmates stated that one girl was killed when she retaliated to the sexual harassment by the staff and she was buried in the premises. Reportedly, the sample of debris is to be sent for forensic test. 10 out of 11 accused have been arrested.

The inmates had narrated their ordeals in the social audit report prepared by TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences). The Social Welfare Department has filed the police complaint which has exposed the plight of the girls. A special investigation team has been formed to enquire into the matter.

National Human Rights Commission