Supreme Court lifts media gag on reporting Muzaffarpur shelter home rapes; reports

The apex court on Sept 20 vacated a Patna High Court order imposing a ban on media reporting on the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home case and has taken over monitoring of the CBI probe, say media reports

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The Supreme Court on Thursday, September 20 vacated a Patna High Court order imposing a ban on media reporting on the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home case, legal news website Bar & Bench has reported. The apex court “clarifies that there can't be a blanket ban but says media needs to be cautious and diligent while reporting,” tweeted Bar & Bench.

The apex court, however, “reiterated that media cannot telecast or publish images of victims of sexual offences even in morphed or blurred form. The events can be reported, however the Court specifically said, "Media is requested not to sensationalise such events", said Bar & Bench.


The Hindu’s legal correspondent reported that the Supreme Court has "taken over monitoring of CBI probe into Muzaffarpur shelter homes' abuse case from the Patna High Court” and has also ordered an income tax probe into assets of main accused Brajesh Thakur”. The CBI has been asked to file status report in a month, said The Hindu.


“Cannot be a blanket ban on media”

The Supreme Court Thursday said there cannot be a blanket ban on media reporting in the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case where several girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused over time. A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta vacated the August 23 order of the Patna High Court which had imposed a ban on media reporting about the investigations in the case.

The apex court however asked both the print and electronic media not to sensationalise incidents of sexual abuse and violence.

When the apex court on September 18 was hearing the matter, it had made reference of the recent Rewari gang rape case and asked why no action has been taken against media houses for flouting the law as "everything has been said" about the 19-year-old victim.

The top court had also stayed a Patna High Court order to set up a fresh CBI team to probe the case, saying that such a move would not only be detrimental to the ongoing investigation but also to the victims.

The Patna High Court, which has been monitoring the probe, had on August 23 expressed displeasure over the leak of details of the investigation and asked the media to refrain from publishing it as it could be detrimental to the probe.

A plea was filed against this on September 5 in the apex court seeking a stay on the high court order restraining the media from reporting the investigation.

In the plea filed before the apex court, the petitioner, a journalist, has claimed that there was no material before the high court to come to a conclusion that media reporting may hamper the ongoing investigation in the case.

The apex court, while staying the high court's order directing the CBI's special director to put in place a fresh team to probe the case, had said that there was no reason now to change the existing investigating team which was set up the CBI Director.

The high court had on August 29 ordered that a fresh team of investigators be constituted by the CBI's special director in the case in which incidents of alleged rape and sexual assault of women inmates over a period of time had come to light in an NGO-run shelter home at Muzaffarpur in Bihar.

Over 30 girls were allegedly raped at the shelter home run by one Brajesh Thakur, the chief of a state-funded NGO. The alleged sexual exploitation of the girls was first highlighted in an audit report submitted by Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences to the state’s social welfare department

Over 30 girls were allegedly raped at the shelter home run by one Brajesh Thakur, the chief of a state-funded NGO. The alleged sexual exploitation of the girls was first highlighted in an audit report submitted by TISS to the state's social welfare department.

An FIR was lodged against 11 people, including Thakur, on May 31. The probe was later taken over by the CBI.

The incidents of alleged rape and sexual assault of the women inmates had come to light after a social audit was conducted by the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). The TISS audit report had said that many girls at the shelter home had complained of sexual abuse. In all, the sexual abuse of 34 of the 42 inmates was confirmed in their medical examination. A special investigation team was formed to probe the complaints.

The NGO running the shelter home in Muzaffarpur was blacklisted and the girls were shifted to shelter homes in Patna and Madhubani. Women staff members of the shelter home and Thakur were among those who were arrested by the police in connection with the case.

Updated with PTI inputs at 3.50 pm on September 20, 2018

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Published: 20 Sep 2018, 3:41 PM