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Bihar government criticized by Supreme Court for failure to protect shelter home kids

November 28, 2018

Using the strongest possible words, the Supreme Court of India pulled up the government of Bihar for not filing cases under the relevant law on allegations of sexual assault on children at shelter homes in the state.

The court was hearing a case of multiple rapes at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur and it found faults in the way the Bihar government has been handling cases. This is a part of a larger audit of shelter homes, that merit being filed under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The cases were instead filed under the POCSO Act, which the court said was not the correct way to handle them. Section 377 continues to be an offence, under "intercourse with children," among others.

The Bihar government has registered only for minimum offence. If you haven't registered FIR on 377, then how will you investigate? Are we doing any favour to these children? Are they not citizens of this country. - Supreme Court of India

Although the Bihar government got the report on sexual assault cases from an NGO in May as part of a larger audit, no action was taken. The Bihar chief secretary has been told to explain why FIRs have not been filed. The court also warned Bihar that it would consider handing over all shelter home cases to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

"If we find that there were offences under section 377 IPC (rape) and POCSO Act (sex abuse of children) and you did not register FIR, we will pass an order against the government," warned the court.

Over 30 girls were raped and tortured at the home, before the crime was uncovered by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, based on conversations with several girls who had alleged sexual assaults earlier this year. The main accused is Brajesh Thakur, a politically-connected man. Thakur is in a jail in Patiala.

The court will resume hearing tomorrow.

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