The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Bihar government to take steps to unite eight girls who used to stay at a Muzaffarpur shelter where inmates were allegedly raped, with their families, ANI reported. The top court also ordered the state government to give the girls financial and medical assistance.

The court made the decision after going through a status report filed by Koshish, a field action project by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The institute’s counsel told the court that the eight girls were fit to be handed over to their families, News18 reported. They had contacted families of five girls, but their home visit was due, the counsel said.

A bench headed by Justice NV Ramana ordered the Bihar government to assess the compensation payable to the girls and submit a report to the court, PTI reported. The bench asked the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to prepare a status report about the remaining 26 girls and submit it to the court within eight weeks.

The Bihar government had filed an application that sought permission to complete the rehabilitation and restoration process of the girls. In July, the top court had allowed members of Koshish to meet the girls and their families to figure out if uniting them would be possible.

The alleged sexual exploitation of children at the shelter 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 was ordered by the state government, which filed a first information report against 11 people in May 2018.

At least 34 inmates were allegedly drugged and raped, according to law enforcement agencies. The Central Bureau of Investigation – in its 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.

Seven girls, including five witnesses in the case, went missing from a government-run children’s home in February. They were shifted there from Muzaffarpur last year.

In June, the Supreme Court had given three months to the CBI to complete the investigation, including suspected murders, in the case. It had also asked the agency to widen its scope to include “outsiders” involved in the crime and to investigate the allegations of video recordings of the alleged assault under the Information Technology Act.

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