The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development to place before it the data of social audit and survey conducted at around 3,000 shelter homes across the country.
A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, while hearing the case of alleged sexual abuse of girls in a NGO-run shelter home at Muzaffarpur in Bihar, was informed by the Centre that a survey was conducted in around 3,000 shelter homes about infrastructure, facilities provided as well as staffs there.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said that the National Commission For Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has got the survey done and the final report was under preparation.
"Whatever data is available with the Ministry of Women and Child Development should be placed on record," the bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and K M Joseph, said.
During the hearing, when Ms Anand told the bench about the social audit of these institutions, the bench asked, "what about the time frame".
Ms Anand said that she would get instructions about it and place the details before the court about the time line and the agency involved in the process.
"In the Muzaffarpur case, the Government of India has issued advisory to the Bihar government. We (Centre) are also contemplating that in cases where NGOs were involved in such activities, the funds will be stopped," she said, adding, "We are equally concerned about this".
The bench said that it would be better to have a proper monitoring system to check the day-to-day activities in such shelter homes run by NGOs.
The top court also said that issuing advisory to the states would not serve the purpose as states might say that they would not follow it.
The bench said that stopping funds would perhaps not solve the problem too as it would be difficult to identify the institutions which were not being run properly.
Advocate Aparna Bhat, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, told the bench that no compensation has been paid to any of the girls who were allegedly raped and sexually abused in the shelter home at Muzaffarpur.
"One of these girls, perhaps a mentally challenged child, is missing," she said, adding that around 40 girls were rescued from the shelter home and they were placed in other shelter homes.
She also raised the issue of minor victims of sexual assaults being repeatedly interviewed and said this should not be allowed.
The bench asked, "is this report (social audit report of TISS) made public?"
Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), said that report was with the Bihar government.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Bihar, said that the report of TISS has not been made public yet.
"Why? Is there some official secret in it?" the bench asked.
Mr Kumar said that TISS report was given to Bihar government on May 26 and on May 29, girls were shifted from Muzaffarpur's shelter home to other protection homes. He said that FIR was lodged in the matter on May 31.
He also said the state was making all efforts to trace the missing girl.
During the hearing, the amicus told the court that counselling of these girls was going on.
Grover said that out of 110 institutions in Bihar, grave concern have been raised against 15 such shelter home run by the NGOs which were funded by the state.
Mr Kumar said that action has been taken against all such institutions.
The bench accepted the suggestions of the amicus who said that mental health aspect of these girls should be left to be addressed by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) Bangalore while AIIMS Patna should deal with the clinical and medical aspect.
The amicus also suggested that social aspect related to these girls, including their rehabilitation, should be addressed by TISS. The bench accepted the suggestions.
The top court said that authorities of these three bodies -- NIMHANS Bangalore, TISS and AIIMS Patna -- should prepare a course of action that they propose to take in the matter and place it before the bench within 10 days.
The top court, which posted the matter for hearing on August 14, has taken cognisance of the Bihar incident following a letter by a Patna-based man.