Taking a grim view of the security situation of women in the country, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the authorities to pay heed to the rising number of cases of sexual assault taking place.
"As per the NCRB data, a girl is raped every six hours in the country, there have been over 38,000 rapes in the country. Madhya Pradesh tops the list while Uttar Pradesh comes second. What is happening in the country," the SC said.
Hearing the case of alleged rapes in Muzaffarpur shelter home, the SC also pulled up the Bihar government asking that how did the state allow "the horror homes to flourish." The court said that the Bihar government has been funding the NGO which runs the shelter home since 2004 but it how did it not have any idea about what is happening there. "Did you never think of doing any investigation there," the SC asked.
The court also asked Bihar government over what has it done to punish the guilty in the case. The government defended itself saying that their officers visited the shelter home but no one gave them any information about such a case then.
However, the court yet again held the government responsible stating that if the officials would have reached out to the children and spoken to them, they would have got to know about such incidents happening there. "The inspections were treated only as a formality and were never taken seriously, the court said.
The Bihar government of Nitish Kumar, caught in a shelter home rape horror, was shredded by the Supreme Court which questioned why there was no inspection of these homes. "Girls are raped left, right and centre," a furious court said.
The Supreme Court also ordered the removal of all videos and photographs of minors in rape cases from social media and directed the media not to use photos of underage rape survivors on print, electronic and social media.
The court was hearing the case involving the Muzaffarpur shelter home in which over 30 girls were raped, tortured and exploited over the past four years. Ten people have been arrested, including the home's politically well-connected owner Brajesh Thakur, whose no-profit runs other shelter homes.
The SC had earlier on August 2 issued notices to the Bihar government and the Centre in connection with the case. The court had taken suo motu cognisance of the case and sought an explanation from the Bihar government and the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry asking how no action was taken to stop minor girls from being raped in shelters home.
Over 30 girls were allegedly raped at the centre run by Brajesh Thakur, the chief of the state-funded NGO. The alleged sexual exploitation of the girls was first highlighted in an audit report submitted by the Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Mumbai, to the state's social welfare department in April. An FIR was lodged against 11 people, including Thakur on May 31.
Sexual abuse of 34 inmates out of 42 was confirmed in their medical examination, while two others who were unwell were yet to undergo medical tests. Women staff members of the shelter home and Thakur were among those who were arrested by the local police in connection with the case.
Meanwhile, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday condemned the recently held sit-in protest in the national capital by the Opposition and said it was a mere effort to divert people's attention from real issues like corruption.
Claiming to have taken relevant actions against those accused in the case, Nitish Kumar in his latest 'Lok Samvad' programme also suggested that shelter homes shouldn't be run by NGOs, rather the government should have control on them for better functioning.
"There is no doubt in this that the incident has ashamed the whole society. The officials started investigating the matter soon after the TISS report highlighted the issue. When these people were investing the matter, slowly a misconception was observed in the mind of people. Thereafter the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)," Nitish Kumar said.
"There is a flaw in the system. We have ordered an investigation. However, I think people are free to speak up their minds. We have nothing to do with that. We are concerned about this incident," he added.
Nitish continued his tirade against the opposition parties said, "I saw photographs of them (Opposition leaders) sitting on 'dharna' and laughing. I was surprised to see the people, who took part in the candle march. A minister, who was earlier criticised for using foul language against women, also took part in that protest. The dharna was done to divert attention from corruption in politics. These people are not as much concerned about women safety as we are," Nitish Kumar said.
The sit-in protest and candle march, which was held on Saturday and was attended by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, MPs including Tejashwi's sister Misa Bharti and D Raja, Bihar's former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, former MP Sharad Yadav among others.
Asked whether his coalition partner Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to malign his image, Nitish said, "There is nothing like that. It's a political thing. People say whatever they want."
On being questioned about Bihar minister Manju Verma's involvement in the case, the chief minister said, "If someone related to the minister is involved, they won't be spared. But why is this issue being raised only now? We had called her and she denied any involvement. How is it justified to level baseless allegations?"
Meanwhile, Director General of Police KS Dwivedi said Brajesh Thakur, who is the prime accused in the case, was sent to the hospital by the court.
"We requested for Brajesh Thakur's remand but the court didn't allow; once we arrest someone, he is taken to judicial custody. We didn't him to the hospital. Normally the court asks for health report (of the accused). In the case of Brajesh Thakur also, on the basis of his medical report he was sent to the hospital," Dwivedi said.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken charge of the Muzaffarpur shelter home case and the team has already reached Muzaffarpur for further investigation. They have collected all documents related to the case from the Social Welfare Department of Patna and the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). The case came to light following a report of TISS in April.
Last month, 11 employees of the shelter home were arrested and 44 girls were rescued. The shelter home was run by Brajesh Thakur, the prime accused in the case who is behind bars now.
On August 1, the Bihar Police raided another shelter home run by Thakur after a case was registered against him over the disappearance of 11 girls.