High Court directive applicable to cases relating to incidents at State-run homes

The Allahabad High Court on Monday directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to ensure that in cases relating to sexual harassment of children at State-run homes by an employee, inquiry against the offender as well as other staff members “covering up” the crime is concluded within one month.

Passing the order, a Division Bench of Justices Amar Saran and Ashok Srivastava observed that even “in exceptional cases” the inquiry must be completed “within two months” and “for further extension of the period, the written permission of the Principal Secretary (Women and Child Development) be taken, who must specify the extended period, record reasons for extending the time of inquiry beyond two months and seek an explanation from the inquiry officer for the reasons for failure to conclude the inquiry in two months.”

“The Government may consider issuing a suitable order to this effect,” it said.

The order came in the course of hearing on a matter relating to rape of three girls at a State-run juvenile home in Shivkuti area here by a chowkidar that had come to light earlier this month.

The Court had taken suo motu cognisance of the matter on April 6 and summoned the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police whose depositions it heard in-camera on April 11 before coming out with the directions.

Taking note of the fact that the Superintendent of the home and some other employees had been placed under suspension in the wake of the incident, the Court said that in such cases “suspension orders should not be ordinarily revoked or the employee reinstated on the mere ground of delay or other minor grounds”.

“Only the Principal Secretary (Women and Child Development) should be authorised to revoke the suspension order in most exceptional circumstances and for reasons recorded in writing,” the Court added.

The Court also observed “at this stage when the children have been traumatised and there is risk of names or identities of the victims being leaked out, restrictions must be placed on visits of publicity-seeking individuals to the home.”

The Court also directed the SSP of Allahabad to ensure that the investigation against accused chowkidar Vidyabhushan Ojha “is completed with utmost expedition” and a report on the progress in the probe be submitted on the next date of hearing on April 26.

“The investigation and trial should be conducted in-camera, having regard to the sensitivity and dignity of the female child victims,” the Court said.

“The media and other persons are prohibited from identifying the victims or publishing their names or photographs… In case of violation of this direction, this Court shall initiate stringent measures to punish persons who publicise such information.” - PTI