New Delhi: On a day when former MLA of Bihar assembly Brijesh Thakur and 18 others have been convicted by a Delhi court for sexual and physical abuse of several girls at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, an investigation by news magazine The Caravan has found that the chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the case was framed in such a way that only Thakur, shelter home employees and four government officials “were held responsible for the sexual exploitation of the inmates.”
The January 20 news report, which dives into CBI’s chargesheet, points out:
“The CBI selectively charges only certain individuals who were accused in the witness statements. The witnesses included at least seven victims, whose statements to the CBI had detailed physical descriptions of the ‘outsiders’ visiting Balika Grih, the shelter home, regularly.”
It said, aside from the victims’ statements, there was also a statement by a tenant of Thakur who “named at least two senior politicians; one a sitting Rajya Sabha member and one former member of Bihar’s Legislative Council.”
“The state officials detailed the vast network of government functionaries – involved in the running, monitoring and sanctioning of funds – whose connivance would have been essential to the goings-on at the shelter.” All the statements were recorded by the CBI between September 2018 and December 2018 under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The case was registered in June 2018 after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) submitted a report to the Bihar government in May that year. The case was transferred from Bihar Police to the CBI in July 2018. The Supreme Court has been monitoring the probe since August 2018.
The report highlighted that the court, even before the filing of the chargesheet, had asked the agency to look into Thakur’s political connections. “The court had also asked the agency to explore the involvement of any kind of ‘outsiders’ – everyone not directly associated in running the shelter – and the state’s social welfare department.”
The tenant who lived at the shelter home and also worked as a guard, had named “Azad Gandhi, MLC” (also a Rajya Sabha member between 1996 and 2001) in his statement, adding that he “used to come to the home of Brajesh Thakur. He used to eat (at Thakur’s house) and also go to Balika Grih to saunter. And would also stay at R M Palace Hotel (owned by Thakur) for two to three hours.”
On being asked by the magazine, Gandhi, however, first denied ever visiting Muzaffarpur and later said he visited Thakur’s house once to attend a wedding.
Though the SC in its September 20, 2018 order also referred to the involvement of the state social welfare department at an institutional level and asked the CB I to further probe it, the CBI charge sheet has no mention of it. It chargesheeted only four government officials out of the total 21 accused.
This past January 8, the CBI filed an application at the SC, which among other things, said the agency sent recommendations to “the chief secretary, government of Bihar” to take action against the erring senior government servants “in all the cases”.
Since the CBI submissions to the court were mostly through sealed envelopes, the petitioner Nivedita Jha had to depend on the briefings to the court by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal.
Importantly, the news report also pointed out that while the CBI, in its submission to the apex court on January 8 said that there was no murder in the shelter home and “all the 35 girls are alive” and had been traced, the magazine’s investigation into the case “revealed that the witness statements of over a dozen minors refuted the CBI’s claims”.