Ex-magistrate to probe allegations of assault on women at Mumbai shelter

Published: Nov 26, 2012, 22:37 IST | PTI |

The Bombay High Court on Monday appointed a former magistrate to monitor the functioning of a suburban home after a committee appointed by it, to look into the sexual and verbal assault on women living there, said in its report that the shelter was in a "pathetic and sub-human condition" and was worse than a jail.

The committee, which submitted its report today, accused the shelter officials of dereliction of duty. 

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar has also directed for the chief metropolitan magistrate to instruct four to five magistrates to start recording the statements of the victims under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, so that it can be used as evidence against the accused.

The court was hearing a suo moto public interest litigation on the poor condition of women lodged at the Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruha in suburban Govandi and the allegations of sexual, physical and verbal assault levelled by one of the inmate.

The PIL was taken up after several newspapers wrote about the escape of 23 inmates from the home.

The bench today appointed former magistrate Swati Chouhan to monitor the functioning of the shelter home and submit a report within two weeks. The court on the last hearing was irked with the police probe into the case and appointed a three member committee comprising Asha Bajpai of Tata Institute of Social Science, Doctor Harish Shetty and deputy commissioner of police (Highway Traffic Division) Rashmi Karandikar.

"Scanty efforts have been made by the superintendent of the shelter home to ensure the well being of the inmates. Several women have been illegally detained there despite court orders to repatriate them," Karandikar told the court.

Psychologist Harish Shetty told the court that several girls are suffering from acute depression and ten of them have slit their wrists. "One girl was even found to be pregnant. When she was taken to the shelter home she was checked by the J J Hospital as per normal procedure and was not pregnant then. But later she tested positive for pregnancy. She is one of the inmates who escaped," he said.

The bench said that the priority now is to record the statements of the victim girls before they are repatriated. "If the girls are repatriated before their statements are recorded then there is a chance of their grievance to be lost. The inmates are under lot of pressure from the officials at the home. Hence those girls whose statements have to be recorded shall be shifted to either the Rescue Foundation Home or the Shraddhanand Mahila Foundation for protection," the Chief Justice said.

The bench also directed the Commissioner of Police to provide escort to those girls who have to be repatriated.

The court was today informed by government pleader D A Nalavade that a total of 110 women are presently lodged at the shelter home. "Repatriation orders for 88 women have been issued. Out of this 58 are Bangladeshis, one from Nepal and the remaining Indian nationals," he said. The court has now posted the matter for hearing on December 5. 

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