Continue monitoring Mahila Vastigruh: HC to magistrate

The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked former magistrate Swati Chouhan to continue monitoring the Navjivan Mahila Vastigruh in Mankhurd, which has been facing allegations of ill-treatment of women living there, bad living conditions and repeated instances of inmates fleeing.

On November 26, the High Court had asked Chouhan to look into the matter and submit a report. In her report to the court on Wednesday, the former magistrate has given a number of recommendations for police and judicial officers on conducting rescue operations and keeping rescued victims of traffickers, in shelter homes.

The court had taken suo motu cognizance of a newspaper report highlighting the living conditions at the Vastigruh. The report also carried an interview of a woman inmate who had fled, who claimed that armed men had on several occasions entered the house and raped and assaulted some inmates.

A two-member committee appointed by a division bench of the High Court had severely criticized the living conditions at the shelter home.The committee comprising psychiatrist Harish Shetty and Superintendent of Police (Traffic) Rashmi Karandikar had described the Vastigruh as "a living hell."

During the hearing on Thursday, the department of women and child development told the court that two full-time counsellors have been appointed for the women at the shelter home.

However, it said there was a need for a visiting counsellor as well, for which it sought a direction from the court to the health department.Chief Justice Mohit Shah hearing the case questioned as to why the health department could not be approached directly and why was an order from the court being sought instead.

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