On Tuesday, February 12, the Supreme Court held M Nageshwar Rao, CBI’s ex-interim chief and CBI’s legal advisor guilty of contempt of court for transferring AK Sharma, the CBI officer probing the Bihar shelter home rape cases. The court penalised the two after they signed the officer’s transfer letter without consulting the apex court which was mandatory.
Rejecting the earlier apology sent by two senior CBI officials, the top court ordered them to pay Rs 1 lakh fine within a week. As a punishment, the court also ordered the two to sit in the court until the court’s rising. M Nageswara Rao and CBI’s legal advisor were made to sit in a corner of the Chief Justice’s court until the end of the court proceedings for the day. They sat at the left-hand side visitors’ gallery of the courtroom and were not even allowed to leave the courtroom during the lunch. Both left the court around 4:30 PM after the day’s proceedings ended.
What has happened?
Earlier, Nageshwar Rao had signed off on the transfer order of officer Sharma, who was probing the Muzaffarnagar shelter home rape case, in which many girls were sexually assaulted. During the February 12 hearing, the bench headed by the Chief Justice Rajan Gogoi said that there were explicit orders by the court to not move the officers probing the Bihar shelter home case without the court’s permission.
Last week, the bench of Chief Justice Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna had asked Nageshwar Rao to explain if he informed the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet that AK Sharma could not be transferred without the top court’s approval. “We are going to take it very very seriously. You played with our order. God help you,” CJI Gogoi had said after CBI counsel informed the court about what had happened.
The notice to appear in front of the court was sent to the Rao and CBI advisor after two earlier orders of the Supreme Court were violated by them.
Responding to the contempt of court notice, Rao has earlier filed an affidavit in his response. In his response, he had apologised to the bench saying that he could not even dream of disobeying the court order.
Previously, in Bihar shelter home case
The case of sexual exploitation of young girls had come to light in April last year after Pune’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) audit team had submitted a report on Muzaffarpur shelter home to Bihar’s Social Welfare department. The report claimed that there were multiple cases of sexual assault on minor girls. After the report was forwarded to the Director of Bihar’s Social Welfare department, an investigation was initiated in the case.
CBI had filed a 73-page chargesheet in a special court in Patna. The chargesheet revealed that minor girls were forced to dance to “vulgar Bhojpuri songs” wearing revealing clothes. The CBI also said that girls were drugged, made to lie on the ground and then were raped by Thakur’s guest.
The shelter home that was run by non-governmental organisation Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti, was home to 42 girls, most of them were minors. According to the agency, Thakur along with his close aids allegedly used to assault the girls who refused to obey Thakur’s order to have sexual intercourse with guests.
An FIR was filed against the local journalist Brajesh Thakur, the owner of the NGO. The NGO, ‘Seva Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti’ was funded by the government. Including the main accused, Brajesh, 11 others were also arrested in the case under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) act. After the medical examination of the 42 girls living in the NGO, 34 were confirmed to be sexually exploited. At least 14 officials were suspended in the case who were involved/
AK Sharma, a joint director in the CBI, was the senior-most supervising officer in the Bihar shelter home case and the court, in two orders dated October 31 and November 28, said he should not be transferred.
After his transfer, Sharma was appointed at the post of the Additional Director General in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Records placed before the court indicated that agency’s acting director of prosecution/additional legal advisor S Bhasuran had given an opinion favouring the transfer.