The Patna high court has taken Suo Motu Cognizance of a viral video in which a former inmate of an after- care home in the state capital has accused a top official at the home of enabling sexual abuse of victims, and exploiting them himself. The girl, who left the Patna home sometime back, has also alleged that an inmate who resisted the harassment was killed. In order on 2nd February 2022 Wednesday, the court questioned the fact that no FIR had been filed in the matter yet. “The aforesaid news… is yet again societal/ collective failure and shame in not containing such offences, even after this state and the nation read about the happenings in Muzaffarpur (the shelter home case, in which 12 were sentenced to life)”, the court said.
While not giving any directions at this stage, a division bench including Patna High Court chief justice Sanjay Karol and justice S.Kumar said the court was not satisfied by the inquiry conducted by the social welfare department. It also took note of the juvenile justice monitoring committee’s report that several CCTVs at the home were non- functional. The court said: “No FIR has been registered on such a disclosure of the victim. Even more surprising is that the director of the social welfare department has conducted an inquiry and only on the basis of the CCTV footage installed in the after care home has come to the conclusion that the accusation made by the so- called victim is baseless and false it does not appear that any inquiry was made with the victim”.
It added: “She (the girl in the video) has allegedly reported that the victims… are not provided basic amenities of food and bedding and many of them are not even permitted to leave the home. Another shocking disclosure has been made by her that strangers are permitted to masquerade as relatives of the victims, who come and pick up such helpless women”. Social welfare department directed Raj Kumar said: “We investigated the matter and also studied the CCTV after thoroughly looking into the matter and its suggestions”. Earlier, the court had called an emergency meeting of the juvenile justice monitoring committee over the allegations regarding inmates “being forced, after being sedated, to submit themselves to immoral acts of wrongdoers”.
The court sought an affidavit from the government by the next hearing on February 7 2022, directing it to meanwhile install more CCTVs and employ more staffers at the come. The court said the additional registrar, juvenile justice monitoring committee, had visited the home on January 30, 2022, along with two social activists and met the superintendent. The report submitted to the principal magistrate, juvenile justice board, Patna, said the committee had found that the home had 260 inmates, of whom 30 were mentally challenged, while the rest were either victims of human trafficking or children held in connections with crimes.
Apart from the non- functional CCTVs, the report had found no records of vouchers for purchases of vegetables etc. in its order; the high court frowned upon the home housing nearly double its capacity of 140. The court also mentioned the committee’s recommendation that “the most important thing” is that all staff be sensitized about child-related laws and issues. “Currently, the home is (being run) by the child protection officer (CPO)… working as superintendent on deputation/ placement.