- Brajesh Thakur guilty of aggravated sexual assault under POCSO Act
- Young girls were sedated, raped at shelter in Bihar's Muzaffarpur
- Sentencing January 28 at 10 am; maximum punishment of life imprisonment
Brajesh Thakur, who ran the shelter in Bihar's Muzaffarpur where girls were raped and physically assaulted over a period of several months, was today found guilty by a Delhi court. Brajesh Thakur was convicted for aggravated sexual assault under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act. In addition, 19 of 20 accused - eight women and 12 men - including the former Bihar People's Party MLA, were found guilty on a number of other charges, including criminal conspiracy to commit rape and penetrative sexual assault against minors.
All 19 convicts will be sentenced on January 28 at 10 am. The offences entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
In a case that shocked the nation, young girls were forced to dance to vulgar songs, sedated and raped at the government-run shelter in a scandal that exposed the role of politicians and bureaucrats.
The fallout of the case included the resignation of Manju Verma, a member of the ruling Janata Dal United in the state and then the Social Welfare Minister, after it emerged that Brajesh Thakur had links with her husband.
On Saturday the court dismissed a plea filed by Brajesh Thakur asking for witness testimonies to be dismissed on grounds of unreliability.
Additional Sessions Judge Saurabh Kulshreshtha rejected the plea on grounds the case relating to sexual assault was different from that of the alleged murder of some of them, according to a report by news agency PTI.
Brajesh Thakur's petition claimed prosecution witnesses in shelter home sexual assault case were untrustworthy as investigations into the allegations of murder were based on their statements.
"It is pertinent to mention that the investigation into the allegations of murder were based on the statements made by the prosecutrixes (rape survivors) who are prosecution witnesses in the case," the petition claimed, adding, "They had levelled false allegations against the accused before the court including inter alia allegations pertaining to murder".
The plea further alleged the case by prosecution witnesses was "false, fabricated and concocted".
Earlier this month, in a dramatic twist to the case, 35 girls suspected to have been killed were found alive, the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) told the Supreme Court.
This came after the probe agency told the court they had found a "bundle of bones" and that the politically-connected Brajesh Thakur and his accomplices may have killed 11 girls.
The CBI subsequently said two skeletons recovered during investigations were those of a man and a woman, and no evidence of any minor being murdered had been found.
The CBI said it was distinguishing between cases of sexual assault and those of murder against Brajesh Thakur and that it had not given him a clean chit in either.
The Muzaffarpur shelter home case came to light in May 2018 after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) submitted a report to the Bihar government that highlighted instances of sexual abuse.
After the case made headlines the Bihar government shifted the girls to other protection homes and, on May 31, 2018, lodged an FIR against the accused. The Supreme Court took cognisance of the matter in August and transferred the probe to the CBI on November 28.
With input from PTI