The CBI on Tuesday told the court that most of the victims in Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual assault case were minors.
The Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) for the agency told the court that the victims' ossification test, done to determine age, has shown that except for one or two, all of them were under 18 years of age.
Along with the reports of the ossification test, the agency also submitted in court other medical records of the victims.
The apex court had on February 7 ordered that the shelter home sexual assault case be transferred from Bihar to a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court at Saket district court complex here, which would conclude the trial within six months by holding preferably "day-to-day" hearing.
Several girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused at an NGO-run shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. The issue had come to light following a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The counsel appearing for Brajesh Thakur, the prime accused in the sexual assault case and accused Shaista Parveen alias Madhu, Vicky and Hema, addressed arguments on the point of charge.
The counsel appearing for Mr Thakur said that the only allegation against him was that he was the de-facto owner of the shelter home, which he wasn''t as it was being run by an NGO.
"There is allegation against the shelter home. The shelter home is not a private entity. It is a government constituted organisation. I cannot be the de facto owner," Thakur's counsel said.
To this, the judge asked, "Whose property is it? Who is the owner of the property?"
"NGO is the owner of the property," answered the counsel. However, he said that he will face trial in whatever sections the court charges him with.
He also said that he be provided with the names and details of victims.
"I am entitled. I will not disclose it anywhere," the counsel said. However, the agency protested saying it was not possible to disclose the identity of victims.
The court directed both the parties to find relevant judgments related to POCSO Act which says accused is entitled to seek identity of the victims.
"If there is any judgment, we will follow it. If not, then I will have to decide. I will consider this," the court said.
Earlier the CBI had told the court that charges of rape, kidnapping and causing hurt were made out against Mr Thakur and that several victims had given testimonies against him.
The agency had told the court that statements of 33 victims have been recorded and most of them have testified against Mr Thakur, besides revealing that he used to bring people from outside for raping the girls.
The counsel appearing for accused Hema alleged that the CBI has done a copy- paste job of framing the set of people with all charges in every individual case.
To this the agency said that five girls have spoken against accused Neha, three against Manju, 16 against Meenu and Hema. "There are no general allegation, everything is segregated," the agency said.
The counsel appearing for an accused Manju Devi said that there are two women with the name Manju in the case, one who is a cook and the other who is a counsellor.
To this the CBI said that the case has been made out against the counsellor as the girls had testified against her saying she used to threaten them against speaking out about the incidents happening inside the shelter home.
The court fixed March 6 as the next date for advancing arguments.
During the previous hearing, arguments on the charges were addressed by the counsel for accused Indu, Meena and Neha -- the caretakers of the victims who allegedly drugged the girls making them fall asleep, and two state social welfare department officials -- Ravi Raushan and Rosy Rani.
In the Muzaffarpur shelter home case, an FIR was lodged on May 31, 2018 against 11 people following the TISS report.
On the TISS report, the apex court had said it raised grave concern about 17 shelter homes in Bihar and the CBI must look into all of them. Of these, the Muzaffarpur case was already being looked into by the CBI.
The probe was later taken over by the CBI and so far, 17 people have been arrested.
The amicus curiae had also told the court that there were 1,028 shelter homes across India where instances of sexual and physical abuse have been reported.
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