Almost a year after the crime was exposed, the Bihar government is on the mat again, indeed disgraced by the Supreme Court. The Central Bureau of Investigation has been authorised by the apex judiciary to take over the probe into cases of abuse and sexual attacks on inmates of no fewer than 17 shelter homes in Bihar, with nine of them accommodating children.

This is yet another issue on which the judiciary has taken action in the face of the executive’s appalling failure to prevent, let alone react to child abuse. The court’s observation that the state has been “lagging in its probe” is a severe indictment of the authorities of the shelter homes and the administration in Patna.

To the extent that even the eleven FIRs were crafted to dumb down the incident to the extent possible. It beggars belief that the First Information Reports, which the police generally tend to avoid, did not mention the “serious offences”, still less “provide a true picture of the horrors perpetrated on the inmates and the children”, was the searing observation of the Bench (coram: Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ). It is a collective disgrace for the shelter homes, run by an NGO, and the Bihar government if the court has to couch its distress by saying “The truth is not coming out.”

The larger perspective is implicit in the court’s response to FIRs generally, specifically the tendency of the Bihar police to airbrush a crime when it doesn’t resort to blinding of the accused, as it did in Bhagalpur four decades ago. Indeed, the “Bhagalpur blindings”, so-called, represent a casestudy in police atrocities. In the case relating to the shelter homes in Muzaffarpur, the police has effected a swingback to another remove.

For the Nitish Kumar government and its police, there is a message to be drawn from the judiciary ~ “If a person is dead, the FIR filed is that of a case of simple hurt. A child is sodomised and the Bihar government is saying it will file the FIR after a week.” It is a measure of the enormity of the crime that the state’s Chief Secretary was summoned to the Supreme Court, obviously to underline the fact that the government’s baby-steps towards “investigation” must end.

Justice Deepak Gupta’s lament must have had a resounding effect on Patna’s predominantly corrupt corridors of power ~ “Every time I read this file, I find it tragic. The offences that are the least serious figure in the FIR. This is the attitude of the Bihar government.”

The bluff of a coordinated cover-up has been called. Hence the directive to the CBI to intervene, and the murk that plagues the portals of the central agency need not detain us here. The crime in the shelter homes has blighted the government of Nitish Kumar. From Bhagalpur to Muzaffarpur, the police are no less culpable.