Unhappy with the investigation into the allegations of sexual exploitation at the Mankhurd shelter home, the Bombay high court, on Monday, ordered Rashmi Karandikar, deputy commissioner of police (highway traffic division), to look into the probe.
The division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Nitin Jamdar was hearing a writ petition expressing concern over the safety of women at the shelter home, based on a letter e-mailed by activist Purnima Upadhyay. The letter was sent to the court after a woman, who had escaped from the home, alleged that a group of men armed with knives and choppers would barge into the home, randomly pick up girls and rape them.
Government pleader Dhairyasheel Nalavade, however, claimed that allegations are false. Citing the affidavit filed by deputy commissioner of police (crime) Ambadas Pote, he said that statements of 12 staff members, 58 inmates, 24 police personnel and 6 NGO members who frequented the home have been recorded. However, none of them has witnessed any incident of sexual abuse.
The judges said that the police have just inquired into the specific allegations levelled by the woman. “What does this mean, what more do you want?” the judges asked Nalavade, expressing surprise that no FIR had been registered by the police although cognisable offences were disclosed in the woman’s statement.
“One statement by one witness is sufficient to lodge an FIR. In this case, there is more than enough material to lodge a case,” the judges said.
The affidavit also mentioned that the crime branch has seized the video clips of the escaped woman’s interview. However, it has no mention of men armed with knives and choppers sexually exploiting women from the shelter home, it added.
The court also formed a two-member committee, comprising Asha Bajpai of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Dr Harish Shetty, to check the facilities at the shelter home.