The Supreme Court on Tuesday held M Nageswara Rao, former interim director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, guilty of contempt, News18 reported. The court on February 7 had issued him a contempt notice in connection with the transfer of the CBI officer investigating the Muzaffarpur shelter home abuse case.
The court also found Director of Prosecution S Bhasu Ram guilty of the same charge. It imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on both and asked them to remain seated in the courtroom till it rises as punishment, PTI reported. The court allowed them to leave the room later in the evening.
The court had issued Rao a contempt notice for transferring former Joint Director AK Sharma to the Central Reserve Police Force on January 17 without taking its permission. The top court said the CBI’s move amounted to violation of its order. The court had ordered Rao to appear before it on February 12.
Rao on Monday apologised to the Supreme Court for his action and admitted that he had committed a “mistake” in transferring Sharma. Attorney General KK Venugopal, who appeared on Rao’s behalf, urged the court to accept his apology on Tuesday. Venugopal informed the court that junior lawyers in the Central Law Agency were at fault for not having informed the court about Sharma’s transfer.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said Rao was aware of the court’s directions that the CBI officer cannot be transferred without its consent. “If this is not contempt of court, then what is?” asked Gogoi.
“Speaking for myself, I have never invoked contempt powers and punished anyone in the last 20 years,” he added. “But this is brazen.”
The Supreme Court also clarified that Sharma would not rejoin the investigation.
The court had ordered that the trial in the case be shifted from Bihar to a court in New Delhi within two weeks. It will now be tried by a Saket trial court that deals with cases filed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. The Supreme Court had ordered the lower court to complete the trial in six months.
The alleged sexual exploitation of children at a shelter home in Muzaffarpur came to light in April 2018 after Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences submitted an audit report of 110 shelter homes in Bihar. The audit had been ordered by the state government, which filed a first information report against 11 people on May 31.
At least 34 inmates were allegedly drugged and raped, according to law enforcement agencies. The Central Bureau of Investigation, in it chargesheet filed in December, alleged that the main accused, Brajesh Thakur, had coerced girls to dance to vulgar songs and have sexual intercourse with guests. Thakur is currently lodged in a high-security prison in Punjab.