Court to declare sentence for Muzaffarpur convicts

Muzaffarpur Shelter Home: Court to announce quantum of sentence for convicts on Feb 11

The CBI on Tuesday sought life imprisonment "till remainder of life" for Brajesh Thakur, convicted of sexually and physically assaulting several girls in a shelter home in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district, before a Delhi court which will announce on February 11 the quantum of sentence of 19 people held guilty in the case.

The probe agency said "rape is a crime of lust and power" and leniency should not be shown to the convicts as the victims in the case were minors.

Additional Sessions Judge Saurabh Kulshreshtha reserved the order after hearing arguments of the prosecution and the convicts.

The court on January 20 had convicted Brajesh Thakur, who once unsuccessfully contested assembly polls on Bihar People's Party (BPP) ticket, of several offences, including aggravated penetrative sexual assault under Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and offences of rape under the Indian Penal code (IPC).

In its 1,546 page judgment, the court had also convicted Brajesh Thakur of offences under Indian Penal Code sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 324 (causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and those relating to abetment, Section 21 (failure to report commission of an offence) of the POCSO Act and Section 75 (cruelty to child) of the Juvenile Justice Act.

The offences entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

Public Prosecutor Amit Jindal told the court that the five convicts -- Brajesh Thakur, Dillip Kumar Verma, Ravi Roshan, Vikas Kumar, Vijay Kumar Tiwari -- who were convicted of the offences of aggravated penetrative sexual assault and rape should be sentenced to life imprisonment for remainder of life given the heinous nature of the crime they have committed.

"Rape is a crime of lust and power. They have a family of their own. Some of them have daughters and sons who are minors. The victims in the case were also minors. Any leniency will not be justice in this case. There was no compulsion from anywhere for them to be a part or commit the crime," the counsel said.

Jindal further said the remaining convicts should be given maximum punishment for the offences they have committed.

The counsel for the convicts sought minimum punishment on the ground that they have a family to support, belong to a poor family and should be given a chance to reform.

Advocates P K Dubey and Nishaank Mattoo, appearing for Brajesh Thakur, sought leniency on the ground that he is the sole bread earner of the family and suffering from various ailments.

"The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has already seized assets of Brajesh Thakur's entire family. He (Brajesh Thakur) has three children. His brother is bed-ridden. He is the sole bread earner of the family. We seek minimum punishment," the lawyer said.

Advocate Gyanendra Mishra, appearing for Verma the former chairman of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of Muzaffarpur, said the court needs to see if there is a scope of reform and rehabilitation of the convicts.

"Verma is a social service person. He was a member of CWC. He was not directly linked to the shelter home. He is a victim of circumstances. The measure that more harsher the laws are, the lesser the number of crimes is failing. We see reports of rapes, specifically of minors, every other day in newspapers. The court has to do a balancing act," Mishra said.

To this, the court said Parliament amended the POCSO Act in 2018. Mishra replied, "Parliament is a reflection of certain thought processes of some people."

The court had acquitted Vikki in the case for want of evidence.

One of the female accused, Rosy Rani, former assistant director of child protection unit in Muzaffarpur, was convicted of offences under Section 21(1) (failure to report commission of an offence) of the POCSO Act.

Since the maximum punishment for the offence was six months, which she had already undergone, she was granted bail by the court.

Verma, child protection officer of District Child Protection Unit oshan, member of CWC Vikas Kumar and other accused Tiwari, Guddu Patel, Kishan Kumar and Ramanuj Thakur were held guilty of the offences of aggravated penetrative sexual assault under the POCSO Act, criminal conspiracy, rape, gang rape, causing hurt, abetment to rape under the IPC and the POCSO Act, and section 75 of the JJ Act.

Two of the accused -- Rama Shankar Singh and Ashwani -- were convicted of the offences of criminal conspiracy and abetment to rape.

Female accused -- Shaista Praveen, Indu Kumari, Minu Devi, Manju Devi, Chanda Devi, Neha Kumari, Hema Masih, Kiran Kumari -- were held guilty of criminal conspiracy, abetment to rape, cruelty to child and failure to report commission of an offence.

Advocate Dheeraj Kumar, appearing for some of the convicts, had said they will challenge the judgment in the higher court.

Former Bihar Social Welfare Minister and the then JD(U) leader Manju Verma had also faced flak when the case came to limelight as allegations surfaced that Brajesh Thakur had links with her husband.

She had resigned from her post on August 8, 2018.

The case was transferred on February 7, 2019 from a local court in Muzaffarpur in Bihar to a POCSO court at Saket district court complex in Delhi on the apex court's directions.

The matter had come to light on May 26, 2018 after Tata Institute of Social Sciences submitted a report to the Bihar government highlighting the alleged sexual abuse of girls in the shelter home for the first time. 

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