A Delhi court on Thursday deferred by a month the judgment in the case of alleged sexual and physical assault of several girls at a shelter home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur which was run by former Bihar People’s Party (BPP) MLA Brajesh Thakur.
Additional Sessions Judge Sudesh Kumar deferred the verdict till January 14 next year, as Judge Saurabh Kulshrestha, who had conducted the trial, was on leave on Thursday.
The court had earlier deferred the order by a month till December 12 as the accused could not be brought to court premises from jail due to lawyers’ strike in all six district courts in the national capital at the time.
On Thursday, it adjourned the judgement after all the 20 accused, including Thakur, were brought from Tihar jail, where there are currently lodged, and produced before it.
The court had on March 20, 2018, framed charges against the accused for offences of criminal conspiracy to commit rape and penetrative sexual assault against minors.
The matter had come to light after the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) submitted a report to the Bihar government on May 26, 2018, highlighting the alleged sexual abuse of minor girls in the shelter home.
The accused included eight females and 12 males.
The court had held in-camera trial for the offences of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, drugging of minors, criminal intimidation among other charges, said advocate Dheeraj Kumar Singh, appearing for some of the accused in the case.
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 lawyer had said.
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, had 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.
Additional Sessions Judge Kulshreshtha, during the in-camera trial, concluded the arguments in the case which had begun on February 25 this year.
The case was transferred on February 7 from a local court in Muzaffarpur in Bihar to a POCSO court at Saket district court complex in Delhi on the Supreme Court’s directions.
During the trial, counsel for the CBI told the court that the statements of minor girls, who were allegedly sexually assaulted, point to the fact that there was enough evidence against all the accused and they should be convicted.
On May 29 last year, the state government shifted the girls from the shelter home to other protection homes. In May 31, 2018, an FIR was lodged against the accused in the case.
The top court had on August 2 taken cognisance of the alleged sexual assaults of about 30 minor girls in Muzaffarpur’s shelter home and transferred the probe to the CBI on November 28.