Only SC-directed probe will do

Only SC-directed probe will do

Indian activist hold placards as they take part in a protest over the sexual assault of girls at a state-run home in eastern India city, near Bihar Bhawan in New Delhi on July 30, 2018. Police in eastern India were on July 23 digging up the grounds of a s

Even for those who are inured to the horror stories that keep coming out of Bihar, the reports of mass rape of the inmates of a shelter-home for destitute girls in Muzaffarpur would be shocking. The girls were all minors and were sexually assaulted and physically and mentally abused and tortured over many months and one of them, who resisted the attacks and advances, was probably murdered. The murdered girl’s body was reportedly buried inside the premises. As the body is yet to be found, the murder is yet to be confirmed. At least 39 of the 44 inmates were raped, according to medical reports. The girls’ accounts of their experiences are terrible. They were regularly sedated with drugs and raped and pregnancies were aborted. Even mentally-challenged inmates were not spared. Such terrible incidents have rarely been reported from anywhere in the country. 

The shelter home is owned and funded by the state government but is run by a non-profit organisation. A child protection officer, Ravi Kumar Roshan, and another person, Brajesh Kumar, were first named by the girls. Persons with political connections are said to be involved in the crimes. Ten arrests have been made in the past few days and the search is on for some other suspects. The matter came to light only after Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) reported it in April. Inexplicably, the government failed to take any action for many weeks, and a First Information Report (FIR) was filed only on May 31. The investigation did not progress even after that. It is only after the scandal hit national headlines and opposition parties raised it in the state assembly and parliament that a CBI investigation has been ordered into it. 

Nitish Kumar’s JD(U)-BJP government is clearly on the defensive and has much to explain. The running of the shelter home and ensuring the safety of the inmates was its responsibility. It not only failed in its duty, but also failed to investigate the matter in time. The reported involvement of political persons and officials makes the matter even more murky. Given the circumstances of the case and the possible association of influential persons with it, there are doubts whether a CBI investigation will bring out the entire truth and lead to the punishment of all the guilty persons. The scale and ramifications of the crime make it a fit case for the Supreme Court to take note of and direct a time-bound investigation and prosecution. Steps should be taken to ensure that the girls are rehabilitated and justice is done to them.   

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