A committee appointed by Bombay High Court (HC) to probe allegations of sexual abuse and mistreatment of inmates at Navjeevan Sudhar Kendra in Mankhurd has called the shelter home “a living hell”.
A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar, hearing a suo moto petition taking cognizance of a newspaper report, had ordered setting up of the committee on November 5.
The committee comprising SP (traffic) Rashmi Karandikar and psychiatrist Harish Shetty has severely criticised the shelter in a report filed on November 23.
The report states, “Rehabilitation begins by ‘acceptance’ of stigmatized victims. But in this habitat, the women experienced a sense of rejection worse than what they ever had.”
The report refers to the absence of a mandatory admission book and three women going missing without evidence of breaking locks or grills.
Shetty told the court on Monday an inmate even became pregnant at the house and later escaped as a result of a possible “deep-rooted conspiracy”.
The committee also noted that “no serious effort was made” for repatriation of the 58 Bangladeshi inmates. Karandikar and Shetty said nine Bangladeshi women received travel permits in August, which had now expired and the central government had no explanation for it.
However, government pleader D A Nalavade told the court repatriation orders for the 58 Bangladesh nationals and a Nepali had been issued.
Some inmates reportedly told the panel they would be allowed to meet family members if paid money, and that a girl was released because she paid the shelter staff.
While the committee does not make a specific comment on allegations of rape by an inmate, it says there was evidence to suggest unidentified men illegally entered the shelter.
HC has now asked the chief metropolitan magistrate to get statements of victims recorded and former magistrate Swati Chouhan to monitor functioning of the shelter.
Testimony of a woman who became pregnant at the shelter could not be recorded as she fled the home
Many women of Bangladesh origin detained with “no efforts for their repatriation”
Inmates detained for days despite release orders from courts, creating major discontent
Only two toilets and two bathrooms despite 30 additional structures
Substandard, unpalatable and non-nutritious food served to inmates
Several court documents missing
In June, only 79 of the 224 inmates were provided sanitary napkins
Inmates abused by officials
Gross negligence by successive superintendents needs to be accounted for and action initiated against them
Repatriation activities need to be reviewed every month by deputy commissioner of WCD
A detailed rehabilitation plan needs to be incorporated in the system
Gender sensitisation of staff is must
Appointment of at least two counselors within six months
All vacancies should be filled within 15 days