On July 27, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights told the Delhi High Court that they had recommended action against two children’s homes linked to Harsh Mander only after they found various discrepancies and violations. The two homes under investigation are Ummeed Aman Ghar for Boys and Khushi Rainbow Home for Girls. An FIR was registered against Mander in February 2021.
According to the NCPCR, children informed that elder boys were sent to sit in protests against CAA and that one child even said that PM Modi only listens to Hindus and fights with Pakistan. The commission said that one of the girls informed the commission that she, along with 4-5 girls, went to Jantar Mantar during the CAA protest. They also found that elder boys were also sent to protest sites. Sending children for protests is a violation of Section 83(2) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
NCPCR said that the children were taken to the protest sites, including Jantar Mantar, which is a violation of the regulations. The reply by the commission was submitted as a response to the plea filed by the Centre for Equity Studies’ (CES) which runs the children’s homes. Mander is a director at CES. In the plea, they have requested the court to quash the inspection reports submitted by NCPCR.
In its reply, NCPCR said that prima facie, they found several violations of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and its Model Rules, 2016, along with other irregularities. They said, “During the inspection, prima facie many violations of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and its Model Rules, 2016 and various other irregularities came to the notice of NCPCR, including financial irregularities as the institution was reluctant in disclosing their sources of funding and other relevant documents to the inspection team.”
The action was taken based on a complaint filed by one Kalinga Rights Forum that alleged violations of the Juvenile Justice Act at the two homes run by Mander. In the complaint, it was alleged that children from a particular religion were being catered to in the homes. It also alleged that CES received hefty funding that was being used for illegal activities like religious conversions.
NCPCR, in its reply, mentioned several alleged violations, including expiration of the registration of one of the houses, inadequate staff and infrastructure, no age segregation among children and allowing foreign nationals on employment and tourist visas to give voluntary services at the homes, among others.
‘Inaction against complaints of child sexual abuse’
NCPCR told the court that in the boys’ home, an employee informed the commission about child sexual abuse cases reported. However, the management did not take any action in such a complaint. They said, “The Commission observed this to be a gross violation of the provisions of the POCSO Act, 2012 and had immediately reported this to Delhi Police for further investigation as well.”
CES failed to disclose details of funds
The commission alleged that the homes received funds from multiple sources. CES did not disclose that the funds were received from Rainbow Foundation India and Association for Rural and Urban Needy (ARUN) under the Rainbow Homes Program.
NCPCR raided homes in October last year
In October 2020, the NCPCR acting on a complaint had raided the children’s homes run by CES, where Mander is a director. Mander alleged that the questions asked by the commission included if children participated in protests such as anti-CAA protests, foreign funding received by the homes and if Rohingya children are lodged in the two homes.
In January 2021, NCPCR said in a statement that they found many violations of the Juvenile Justice Act and other regulations at the two homes. The allegations, including the incidents of child sexual abuse at the home for boys, were denied by CES. They said that the allegations were raised in order to tarnish the reputation of Mander, who is a director at CES.
DCPCR defended Mander-linked homes
Delhi Commission for Protection Child Rights (DCPCR) that comes under the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government had defended the two homes. They said in their statement that most of the regulations were being followed at the homes. NCPCR, in response to the DCPCR inspection, said that the latter’s inspection took place after the former’s inspection.
In a reply, the Delhi Commission for Protection Child Rights (DCPCR) defended the two homes and said they were adhering to most norms. DCPCR said, “All citizens including children are well within their right to know, discuss, debate on any issue facing India and form their own conclusions. The fear expressed by the NCPCR is rooted in the belief that children are stupid, have no agency and cannot think at all. DCPCR vehemently opposes such a belief and expects greater dignity to be accorded to children.”
The NCPCR responded that the DCPCR inspection had taken place after its own inspection.