The Supreme Court on Thursday urged media outlets not to sensationalise incidents of sexual abuse, but said there cannot be a blanket ban on reporting of the investigation in the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case, PTI reported.
As many as 34 inmates in the shelter home in Bihar were allegedly sexually assaulted. In August, the Patna High Court restrained the media from reporting on the investigation, expressing concern about information being leaked and its impact on the probe. On September 11, Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta of the Supreme Court agreed to examine the order.
The judges said the media needs to be cautious and diligent while reporting, and said images of victims of sexual offences cannot be telecast or published, even in the morphed or blurred form, Bar and Bench reported.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by a journalist, who claimed the High Court order was erroneous and equivalent to imposing a “blanket ban” on media reporting in the case. The High Court did not have sufficient material to conclude that media reporting could interfere with the ongoing investigation, the petition said.
Lokur and Gupta also asked the Bihar Police to investigate former minister Manju Verma and her husband Chandrashekhar Verma in connection with the recovery of a large quantity of ammunition from their possession, as states in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s status report.
Manju Verma had stepped down as social welfare minister in August after allegations about her husband’s links to Brajesh Thakur, who used to run the shelter.
The bench also said the investigation seems to be going in the right direction and asked the Income Tax Department to look into the assets of Thakur and his organisation, which ran the shelter. The court asked the CBI to submit its next status report on the investigation within four weeks.
Meanwhile, the CBI on Thursday detained four people, including the assistant director of the social welfare department of Bihar, Rosy Rani, PTI reported. She is accused of not taking any action despite receiving complaints from minor girls in the shelter about the abuse.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court had stayed a Patna High Court order asking the CBI’s special director to set up a new team to investigate the case. The top court had said doing so will be detrimental to the ongoing investigation.
The alleged sexual exploitation of children in the shelter in Muzaffarpur came to light after Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences submitted an audit report of 110 shelter homes in Bihar in April. The audit had been ordered by the state government, which filed a first information report against 11 people, including Thakur, on May 31. A medical report confirmed the sexual assault of 34 inmates.