The verdict in Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case, which was scheduled to come on Thursday, has been deferred till January 14, 2020 due to the unavailability of the concerned judge. Earlier, the judgment was scheduled to be announced today by a Delhi court. However, the judge who assigned the task, went on leave and the judgment was postponed for next hearing on January 14 next year.
The case pertains to the alleged sexual and physical assault of several girls at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, which was run by former Bihar People’s Party (BPP) MLA Brajesh Thakur. The court had earlier deferred the order by a month till December 12 as 20 accused, who are currently lodged in Tihar central jail, could not be brought to court premises due the ongoing lawyers’ strike in all six district courts in the national capital.
The court had on March 20, 2018, framed charges against the accused, including Thakur, for offences of criminal conspiracy to commit rape and penetrative sexual assault against minors. The accused included eight females and 12 males. The Court had held trial for the offences of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, drugging of minors, criminal intimidation among other charges.
Key accused Thakur and employees of his shelter home, as well as Bihar department of social welfare officials were charged with criminal conspiracy, neglect of duty and failure to report assault on the girls. The charges also included offence of cruelty to child under their authority, punishable under the Juvenile Justice Act. All the accused, who appeared before the court, pleaded innocence and claimed trial. The offences entail a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
The court had reserved order on September 30 after final arguments by the CBI counsel and 20 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 CBI had told a special court that there was enough evidence against all the accused in the case.
However, those accused have claimed that the CBI had not conducted a “fair investigation” into the case, which has been registered under the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and entails life imprisonment as the maximum punishment.
(With PTI inputs)