A Delhi court on Tuesday deferred for a week the hearing of arguments on quantum of sentence of Brajesh Thakur and 18 others, convicted of sexually and physically assaulting several minor girls in a shelter home in Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
Additional Sessions Judge Sudesh Kumar adjourned the hearing till February 4 as Judge Saurabh Kulshreshtha, who had conducted the trial, was on leave.
The court had on January 20 convicted Thakur, who once unsuccessfully contested assembly polls on Bihar People''s Party (BPP) ticket, of several offences including aggravated penetrative sexual assault under section 6 of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and offences of rape and gang rape under the Indian Penal code (IPC).
In its bulky judgement running into 1,546 pages, the court had also convicted Thakur of offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 324 (causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and abetment under IPC, section 21 (failure to report commission of an offence) of the POCSO Act section 75 (cruelty to child) of Juvenile Justice Act.
The offences entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
It, however, acquitted one Vikki in the case for want of evidence.
One of the female accused, Rosy Rani, former assistant director of child protection unit in Muzaffarpur, was convicted of offences under section 21(1) (failure to report commission of an offence) of the POCSO Act.
Since the maximum punishment for the offence was six months, which she had already undergone, she was granted bail by the court.
Dillip Kumar Verma, former chairman of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of Muzaffarpur, child protection officer of District Child Protection Unit Ravi Roshan, member of CWC Vikas Kumar and other accused Vijay Kumar Tiwari, Guddu Patel, Kishan Kumar and Ramanuj Thakur were held guilty of the offences of aggravated penetrative sexual assault under POCSO Act, criminal conspiracy, rape, gang rape, causing hurt, abetment to rape under IPC and POCSO Act, and section 75 of the JJ Act.
Two of the accused -- Rama Shankar Singh and Dr Ashwani-- were convicted of the offences of criminal conspiracy and abetment to rape.
Rama was also convicted under sections 323 of IPC, 75 of JJ Act and 21 of POCSO Act.
Female accused -- Shaista Praveen, Indu Kumari, Minu Devi, Manju Devi, Chanda Devi, Neha Kumari, Hema Masih, Kiran Kumari -- were held guilty of criminal conspiracy, abetment to rape, cruelty to child and failure to report commission of an offence.
Advocates P K Dubey and Nishaank Mattoo, appearing for Thakur, had told reporters that they will challenge the verdict in the higher court.
Advocate Gyanendra Mishra, representing Dillip, too had said there was no evidence against the accused and he will challenge the judgement in the higher court.
The court had recorded the statement of 69 witnesses produced by the CBI which was represented by Public Prosecutor Amit Jindal.
It had recorded the statement of 44 girls who were physically and sexually assaulted at the shelter home, of which around 13 were mentally disabled.
It had examined 20 defence witnesses, said advocate Dheeraj Kumar, appearing for some of the accused.
The court had on March 30, 2019, framed charges against the accused in the case in which former Bihar Social Welfare Minister and the then JD(U) leader Manju Verma also faced flak as allegations surfaced that Thakur had links with her husband.
She had resigned from her post on August 8, 2018.
The case was transferred on February 7, 2019 from a local court in Muzaffarpur in Bihar to a POCSO court at Saket district court complex in Delhi on the apex court's directions.
The matter had come to light on May 26, 2018 after Tata Institute of Social Sciences submitted a report to the Bihar government highlighting the alleged sexual abuse of minor girls in the shelter home for the first time.
The report had been submitted to the Bihar Social Welfare Department by TISS in February that year.