A Delhi court on Tuesday sentenced Brajesh Thakur to imprisonment for life for sexual and physical abuse of minors at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, and held that being the owner of the childcare institution he was expected to display “compassion, sobriety and righteousness”.
Delhi court also sends 11 others to jail for life in Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual assault case
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) February 11, 2020
Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Saurabh Kulshreshtha observed that Thakur “not only betrayed the trust and faith of the victim girls but also displayed extreme perversity and monstrosity by committing such abhorrent acts with numerous helpless minors girls”.
Therefore, the court ruled, “it is not a fit case for adopting the reformative and therapeutic approach”.
Brajesh Thakur was convicted of sexually and physically assaulting several girls at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur.
The court on January 20 had convicted Brajesh Thakur, of several offences, including aggravated penetrative sexual assault under Section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, and offences of rape under the Indian Penal code (IPC).
In its 1,546 page judgment, the court had also convicted Brajesh Thakur of offences under Indian Penal Code sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 324 (causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and those relating to abetment, Section 21 (failure to report commission of an offence) of the POCSO Act and Section 75 (cruelty to child) of the Juvenile Justice Act.
Besides Thakur, ASJ Kulshreshtha handed five other convicts life term till their last breath. Five of them were sentenced to life and six were sentenced to 10-year imprisonment. The two others were sentenced to three years and six months in jail, respectively. The court also imposed a fine of over Rs 30 lakh on Thakur.
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 the commission of an offence) of the 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 the commission of an offence.
Thakur had also once unsuccessfully contested assembly polls on Bihar People’s Party (BPP) ticket.
Observing that the victims belonged to the poor strata, which justifies the need for grant of varying compensation, the court said that compensation between Rs 5. 50 lakh to Rs 10 lakh be paid to them. Some of them were asked to be paid compensation below Rs 1 lakh, keeping in mind the nature of sexual harassment.
Thakur´and other convicts counsel pleaded for lenient and reformative approach as the convicts had no previous criminal record and have a chance of reforming themselves once they come out of jail.
The court did not agree with the convicts’ plea for leniency and said, “…In this era, where protection of girl child and emancipation of women are avowed societal objectives, it is lamentable that minor girls housed in a State-sponsored, State-monitored and State-funded children’s home (Balika Grih, Muzaffarpur, Bihar), meant for providing a safe and secure environment to the children/girls in need of care and protection, were subjected to such horrendous acts of rape and sexual assault in that very home. The facts of the case, as have unfolded, do not warrant a lenient approach.”
It also observed, “…this is not a case of a single solitary incident of rape, but a meticulously planned and ingeniously executed conspiracy wherein the caregivers, supervisors and administrators in State-sponsored children’s home themselves turned into predators, perpetrators of crime and abettors, and repeatedly subjected numerous minor girls to atrocious acts of rape and aggravated penetrative sexual assault over…about four years.”
In his 156-page order on sentence, ASJ Kulshreshtha noted: “The convict is not a young boy charged with a solitary offence but a mature and experienced politician charged with (a) plethora of crimes and was the kingpin of the conspiracy. Further, a person who is the owner of, or who in fact manages and exercises control over the affairs of such a child care institution…is expected to display compassion, sobriety and righteousness…”
The matter had come to light on May 26, 2018, after Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) submitted a report to the Bihar government highlighting the alleged sexual abuse of minor girls in the shelter home for the first time.
Brajesh Thakur was seen as a respected man running a Hindi daily in north Bihar, and an NGO that housed a shelter home for girls.
Thakur knew people in a position in Muzaffarpur district administration and was a member of the Bihar government’s accreditation committee — the government gave his newspaper advertisement without ever checking the number of copies it printed and sold.
The shelter case expose was, thus, more a “coincidental revelation”, according to the State Social Welfare Department’s Additional Chief Secretary Atul Prasad, who was a key person behind unearthing it.