The Bombay high court, on Monday, directed deputy commissioner of police (Highway Traffic Division) Rashmi Karandikar to investigate the allegations of rape and sexual abuse in a state-run shelter home for women in Mankhurd.
A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice NM Jamdar also appointed a two-member panel, comprising Asha Bajpai of TISS and Dr Harish Shetty, to inspect Navjeevan Mahila Vastigruh and submit a report by November 23.
The court was hearing a writ petition based on letter e-mailed by activist Purnima Upadhyay raising concern about the safety of women lodged at the shelter home.
The letter was addressed to the court after one of the inmates who had escaped from the shelter home told a city newspaper that a group of armed men would barge into the home and rape girls.
In October, around 60 inmates tried to escape from the shelter home. Of the 36 who scaled the compound wall, 13 were caught. Of the 23 who escaped, one woman, in a media interview, claimed that the inmates were sexually abused and raped by armed goons.
But government pleader Dhairyasheel Nalavade insisted that such an incident has never happened in the home.
He submitted an affidavit filed by DCP (crime) Ambadas Pote, stating they have recorded the statements of 12 staff members, 58 inmates, 24 police personnel posted at the home and six representatives of NGOs, who visited the place, but none of them corroborated the allegation.
After appointing Karandikar to investigate the matter, the bench said: "Apparently many wrong things are going on there, but the investigation officer concentrated only on one thing – armed men barging into the home, randomly picking up girls and raping them at knife-point." The HC adjourned the hearing to November 26.
In a related development, the crime branch said they have identified the woman who spoke to the media, but have not been able to trace her. She is from Bangladesh, an officer said.