The Central Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday opposed in the Delhi High Court a plea seeking suspension of a Rs 32.20 lakh fine imposed on Brajesh Thakur, who was on February 11 sentenced to life imprisonment in the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape case, PTI reported.

Thakur, the main convict, used to run a shelter home in Muzaffarpur in Bihar where at least 34 inmates were allegedly drugged and raped. He had earlier this year been sentenced to life imprisonment. The investigation agency said that the fine was justified as he was convicted on multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault, abetment and conspiracy.

The CBI also denied Thakur’s claim that his assets were attached by the Enforcement Directorate. “No document has been placed on record by the applicant [Thakur] which shows that he ever tried to make the payment of the fine from his assets and other properties,” it added. “Further, it is for the applicant to make arrangements for payment of fine.”

A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar were hearing an appeal challenging the trial court’s verdict. Thakur and co-convict Dilip Verma had filed the appeal. The trial court had also sentenced Verma to life imprisonment in the case.

Noting that the trial court record was bulky, comprising over 86,000 pages, the High Court asked advocate Mohit Mathur and lawyer Pramod Kumar Dubey, representing Verma and Thakur, to compile and file documents relevant to the case.

In the appeal, Thakur claimed that neither the Bihar Police nor the CBI had conducted a potency test on him, which was one of the foundational facts in such cases.

“The trial court has failed to appreciate that there is no presumption under [the] law that a person who is more than 50 years of age and admittedly suffering from high blood sugar has to be potent,” the appeal said. “Without establishing the potency of the accused, especially one who is more than 50 years of age, the accused cannot be convicted of the offence of rape.”

The case

The sexual exploitation of minors came to light in April 2018 after Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences submitted an audit report of 110 shelter homes in the state. The audit had been ordered by the state government, which filed a first information report against 11 people, including Thakur, on May 31, 2018.

The CBI had taken over the investigation in 2018 following a Supreme Court directive. In June last year, the Supreme Court gave the CBI three months 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.

Thakur was on January 20 this year convicted under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and rape under the Indian Penal Code in the case. Besides Thakur, 18 others were convicted, and sentenced on February 11.