Rejecting Opposition's demand to sack his social welfare minister Manju Verma over the Muzaffarpur shelter home scandal, embattled Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday blamed 'system flaw' for such cases and said she would be asked 'to go' only if there is evidence against her, even as the Patna high court agreed to monitor a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the matter for its speedy trial.
The alleged rape of 34 inmates at the government-funded shelter home for girls also resonated in Parliament where two Bihar MPs protested in Lok Sabha demanding justice for the victims and claimed evidence of the crime was destroyed before the state government handed over the case to the CBI.
Putting the blame on the long-standing 'flaw in the system' of such shelter homes being run by NGOs in the entire country, Kumar announced his decision to phase out this practice in Bihar and said the state government would take over administration of all such centres over a period of time.
He said Verma can be asked 'to go' only if she is found to have facilitated any wrongdoing and not because of some 'noises' -- a stance that found support from his deputy and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushil Modi.
Kumar also took potshots at his former party colleague Sharad Yadav and other opposition leaders for attending a protest in the national capital on the issue, organised by Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav, saying it was amusing to see people having spoken unkindly of women holding candle lights at an event organised by a person facing corruption charges.
Soon after Kumar replied some media queries during his weekly public interaction programme 'Lok Samvad' while referring specific questions to officials on why the main accused Brajesh Kumar was never taken into police custody, his deputy chief minister also asserted there is no need for resignation of Verma or any other minister 'just because some people are giving statements'.
Verma is in the eye of storm ever since name of her husband has cropped up in the Muzaffarpur sex scandal, in which medical reports have confirmed rape of 34 out of a total of 42 inmates of the shelter home.
The opposition parties have been gunning for the minister's head.
"Investigations are on. If it is found that she had in any way facilitated any wrongdoing, she may have to go, but (not) because people are making noises," Kumar said.
Hitting back at opposition leaders, Kumar said where were these people, who have suddenly grown so sensitive, when the first FIR was lodged on May 31 and why have they woken up to the scandal in the last few weeks.
Coming in support of Verma of Janata Dal-United, Modi said no minister needs to resign just because some people are making noises.
"They are voicing their personal opinion and that is not the party line," he said, referring to his party colleague C P Thakur reportedly favouring Verma's resignation.
Modi also rejected the opposition demand for resignation of another minister, BJP's Suresh Sharma over this scandal.
Kumar dismissed speculation that a BJP leader favouring Verma's resignation and letters written by Governor Satya Pal Mallik to him and to the Centre hinted towards a strategy by his coalition partner to pin him down.
He launched a scathing attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejrwial and others who participated in the Jantar Mantar protest, saying it showed corruption is no longer an issue for them.
At the nearly hour-long media interaction, the CM asked officials to take over when questions were posed as to why the main accused was never taken into police custody and was allowed to remain in a hospital and newspapers run by him continued to get huge government advertisements.
Director General of Police K S Dwivedi said the trial court did not accept the plea for police remand of Brajesh Thakur, patron of the NGO that was running the shelter home, and he was sent to a hospital by a court order on the basis of a medical report.
Official sources said a three-member team has now been constituted for medical examination of Thakur, who has been in hospital for close to 40 days. Principal Secretary (Social Welfare) Atul Prasad said it was not possible to make public the TISS report since the law prohibits anything that might disclose the victims' identity.
Principal Secretary (Information and Public Relations Department) Atish Chandra said Thakur's newspapers were getting government advertisements since late 80s but it was stopped this June after the scandal came to light.
In Lok Sabha, protesting Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan and RJD's Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav trooped into the well.
They were supported by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, Nationalist Congress Party leader Tariq Anwar besides others.
However, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked them to raise the issue during the Zero Hour and continued with the proceedings of the Question Hour.
While political parties continued indulging in a slugfest, the Patna high court accepted the Bihar government's request to take up monitoring of the CBI investigation and ensure its speedy trial by appointing a special judge.
Advocate General Lalit Kishore told reporters that the court accepted both requests of the state government.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Rajeev Ranjan Prasad also directed the CBI to submit details regarding investigations so far and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.