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SC Allows TISS Action Project to Interact with Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Assault Victims, Kin

Several girls were sexually assaulted at an NGO-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, and the issue had come to light following a report by the TISS which had conducted a social audit.

PTI

Updated:July 18, 2019, 10:30 PM IST
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SC Allows TISS Action Project to Interact with Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Assault Victims, Kin
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday allowed 'Koshish', a field action project of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), to interact with the victims of the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual assault case and their families to prepare a rehabilitation plan for them.

Several girls were sexually assaulted at an NGO-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, and the issue had come to light following a report by the TISS which had conducted a social audit.

The apex court was told by the Centre that they would finalise within 4-6 months the child protection policy aimed at curbing the incidents of sexual abuse of children.

A bench headed by Justice N V Ramana was dealing with an application filed by the Bihar government which is seeking the court's permission to hand over the custody of 44 children of Muzaffarpur shelter home to their respective families.

The bench, also comprising Justices M M Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi, questioned the Bihar government for filing such an application and observed, "Everyday we are facing the problem of Bihar. Has every problem (of Bihar) to be solved by the court?".

The counsel appearing for the state said that children of Muzaffarpur shelter home have been kept in different childcare institutions and some of them have started showing aggressive behaviour and also indulged in inflicting self-harm.

"They (some of the children) feel that they are captive and have been kept in an overprotected environment. They have also tried to run away from the institutions," the counsel said.

Advocate Aparna Bhat, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, informed the bench that trial in the Muzaffarpur case is going on and the CBI investigation in the murder aspect was underway.

She said that in June this year, the apex court had granted three months to CBI to complete the probe in the case, including suspected murders, and had directed it to widen the scope to investigate the "outsiders" involved in the crime.

Bhat said that these children have to be rehabilitated but sending them to their families would not be good.

"They (children) need to be looked after and they need support. Merely sending them back to their families will do nothing. Accused in the Muzaffarpur case are influential and they can reach out to their families till trial in the case is going on," she said.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for TISS, told the court that in April a meeting was held between the members of UNICEF, the social welfare department of state government, 'Koshish' and others to discuss the rehabilitation plan.

"The rehabilitation plan could not be formed as it requires individual discussions with the children and their families," Grover said.

She said many of these 44 children are witnesses in the Muzaffarpur case but the main task is to look after their well being.

"The question is what is the way out? How should we solve the problem," the bench asked, adding, "What about murders? How many murders have taken place there?".

Bhat said that as per statements of the girls, three children were murdered in the shelter home and skeletons were also found during the CBI probe.

The bench said that it would allow 'Koshish' to interact with the children and their families and submit a report before it within four weeks.

Grover said that after interacting with the children and their family members, they can prepare an individualised rehabilitation plan.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, representing the Centre, said they have received around 250 suggestions on the draft child protection policy and they would finalise it within four to six months.

The bench allowed Anand to file a status report within three weeks in the matter.

The apex court had in June directed the CBI to probe the allegations of unnatural sexual assault under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in the Muzaffarpur case.

Besides, it had asked the CBI to probe the offences under the Information Technology Act regarding the video recordings of the alleged assault on girls at the shelter home.

The trial against 21 accused, charge-sheeted by CBI in for an alleged sexual and physical assault on the inmates, is going on in a trial court of Delhi.

The apex court in February transferred the case from Bihar to a Protection of Children from

Sexual Offences (POCSO) court in Saket District Court complex in Delhi.

On November 28 last year, the top court had directed the CBI to conduct a probe into allegations of physical and sexual abuse of inmates in 16 other shelter homes in Bihar which were flagged in the TISS report.

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