Shelter case may be tip of the iceberg: SC

Court raises concern over undetected cases of child abuse
The Supreme Court on Thursday gave voice to its apprehension that the rape and abuse of minor girls in the Muzaffarpur shelter home in Bihar may be a tip of the iceberg. There may be other undetected cases of sexual abuse of children in shelter homes across the country. “A large number of young girls may be abused… we cannot let children suffer,” Justice Madan B. Lokur gave words to the top court’s anguish. Accompanied by Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta on the Bench, Justice Lokur called for evolving an “immediate” mechanism to identify and rescue children abused inside shelter homes.
Daunting challenge
Justice Lokur said data about such instances might not be even forthcoming. The challenge to unearth such incidents of sexual abuse of children by shelter home authorities was daunting. “Some States admit this [sexual abuse inside homes] has happened and corrective steps need to be taken. Some States may be wary of admitting. They do not want such incidents of rape to go on record… they want their records to look good. There must be something that can be done,” Justice Lokur said. Advocate Aparna Bhat, who is the court’s amicus curiae in the case, drew the attention of the Bench to an incident of sexual abuse of 26 children at a shelter home in Andhra Pradesh. Justice Lokur said framing a policy for child protection might take time, but a shorter and immediate action was necessary to help the victims of abuse. The court summoned the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Development on October 8. The discussion came even as the CBI informed the Bench that it had recovered skeleton of a minor girl during the ongoing probe into the Muzzafarpur shelter home case. The agency informed that the girls rescued from that home are suffering from post-traumatic disorder. The CBI is interviewing the children with assistance from experts of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences. Justice Lokur said both investigation and rehabilitation should go side by side.
Over 30 girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused at a shelter home run by an NGO in Muzaffarpur and the issue was highlighted in an audit report submitted by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to the Bihar social welfare department.
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