Bihar shelter home case: HC asks CBI to reply on Brajesh Thakur's appeal against life term for sexual assault
A bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar issued notice to the CBI on the appeal seeking to set aside trial court's January 20 judgment convicting Thakur in the case.
NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought CBI's response on an appeal filed by Brajesh Thakur, who was sentenced to life imprisonment till his last breath for sexually assaulting several girls in a shelter home in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district, challenging his conviction and jail term.
A bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar issued notice to the CBI on the appeal seeking to set aside trial court's January 20 judgment convicting him in the case and February 11 sentencing order and listed the matter for further hearing on August 25.
"Appeal is admitted. Issue notice. Status report or reply be filed by the CBI before the next date," the high court said and listed it along with another appeal filed by co-convict Dilip Verma, then Chairman of Child Welfare Committee.
Verma too was sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of life by the trial court in the case.
The high court also sought response of the CBI on an application by Thakur, represented through advocate Pramod Kumar Dubey, seeking suspension of fine amount of Rs 32.20 lakh which was imposed on him by the trial court.
A trial court here had sentenced Thakur to "rigorous imprisonment till remainder of his life" and imposed a hefty fine of Rs 32.20 lakh on him, saying he was the "kingpin" of a "meticulously planned" conspiracy and "displayed extreme perversity".
Besides Thakur, who once unsuccessfully contested assembly polls on Bihar People's Party (BPP) ticket, the trial court has also sent others to jail for life in the case.
Thakur, in the appeal, contended that the trial was conducted in a hurried manner by the special judge (POCSO), Saket, which was a flagrant violation of his right to a free and fair trial as guaranteed under the Constitution.
He claimed that his applications and submissions were dismissed in a mechanical manner without due application of judicial mind with a view to somehow conclude the trial.
The appeal, filed through advocates Nishaank Mattoo, Anurag Andley and Shreed Krsna, claimed that the conviction judgement and sentencing order were passed by the trial court in a prejudiced and mechanical manner having been swayed by the gruesomeness of the allegations levelled against Thakur and the public perception.
The appeal also raised the issue that potency of an accused is one of the foundational facts which the prosecution has to establish in a case related to rape and said neither the Bihar Police nor CBI had conducted the potency test of Thakur.
"The trial court has failed to appreciate that in a case relating to rape, the prosecution must first and foremost establish that an accused is potent and thereby capable of committing the alleged act".
"The trial court has failed to appreciate that there is no presumption under law that a person who is more than 50 years of age and admittedly suffering from high blood sugar has to be potent".
"Without establishing the potency of the accused specially one who is more than 50 years of age the accused cannot be convicted of the offence of rape," it contended.
"The Special Judge, (POCSO), Saket while convicting the appellant (Thakur) has relied upon legally inadmissible evidence and has assumed the role of a prosecution witness by giving possible explanations which have neither been stated by the prosecution witnesses nor have been recorded in evidence and have further not even been argued by the prosecution during the course of final arguments," it alleged.
The appeal claimed that the trial court's verdict was "illegal, incorrect, perverse and contrary to the evidence on record"nd hence liable to be set aside.
The trial court on January 20, had convicted 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 and gang rape under the Indian Penal code (IPC).
Besides Brajesh Thakur, it had sentenced Dilip Verma, then Chairman of Child Welfare Committee; Child protection officer of District Child Protection Unit Ravi Roshan; member of Child Welfare Committee Vikas Kumar; Guddu Vijay; Kumar Tiwari; Guddu Patel; Kishan Kumar and Ramanuj Thakur to imprisonment for remainder of life in the case.
It had also send three women -- Minu Devi, Kiran Kumari and Shaista Praveen -- to jail for life for abetment to rape.
The trial court had sentenced Rama Shankar, Ashwani, Manju Devi, Chanda Devi, Neha Kumari and Hema Masih to 10 years in prison, and Indu Kumari to three years jail term.
It had imposed varying fines on the convicts.
It had also granted a compensation of Rs 5.50 lakh to three of the rape victims; Rs 6 lakh to one of the victims, Rs 9 lakh to another victim, Rs 40,000 each to two of the victims and Rs 25,000 to another victim.
Former Bihar Social Welfare Minister and the then JD(U) leader Manju Verma had also faced flak when allegations surfaced that her husband had links with Brajesh Thakur.
She resigned from her post on August 8, 2018.
The case was transferred on February 7, 2019 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.
The matter had come to light on May 26, 2018 after Tata Institute of Social Sciences submitted a report to the Bihar government highlighting the alleged sexual abuse of girls in the shelter home for the first time.