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Child Rights Body Alleges Violations of Juvenile Justice Act in Two Child Care Institutions in Delhi

 Image for representation.

Image for representation.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)had taken cognizance of a complaint regarding violation of the JJ Act in Umeed Aman Home for Boys and Khushi Rainbow Home for Girls in South Delhi established by the Centre for Equity Studies.

The apex child rights body NCPCR on Monday said it has observed, during the inspection of two NGO-run child care institutions in Delhi, many violations of the Juvenile Justice Act and various other irregularities including prevalence of child sexual abuse in one of the homes. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had taken cognizance of a complaint regarding violation of the JJ Act in Umeed Aman Home for Boys and Khushi Rainbow Home for Girls in South Delhi established by the Centre for Equity Studies.

The NCPCR in its inspection report has said prevalence of sexual abuse of children was found in the boys' home. In his response, Trustee Member of the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) Harsh Mander called the allegation "unjustified". "I think it is completely unjustified. We created a very strong system, like we had elder women (caretakers) sleeping with smaller children and we have counselling. It is just an allegation and a rumour," Mander told PTI.

In its report, the Commission said it is "saddened by the deplorable conditions of the children who are living in these Homes and the negligent and callous attitude of the management of these Homes towards the welfare of the children and the upkeep of the infrastructure of these Homes". In this regard, NCPCR formed two teams led by its chairperson Priyank Kanoongo, which inspected the two child care institutions on October 1, 2020. The NCPCR said the registration of Umeed Aman Ghar was found to not have been renewed.

In its response, the CES said they have applied for renewal "at every stage". "Law requires you to apply for renewal within time and then if the case is not resolved within the period then licensing authority has to give renewal. Under the JJ Act we continued to look after the children as they had not cancelled our license," a CES spokesperson said.

At the time of inspection, the NCPCR said it was reported by the institutions that no case of child sexual offence has occurred since the Homes' inception nor has any case of child rights violation been reported. "However through various sources, the Commission had come to know that various instances related to child sexual abuse had taken place within the said (boys') Home in 2012, 2013 and 2016," the NCPCR said in the report.

The CES, in a statement, said it was the management of the boys' home that in its submissions told the commission about the three cases of sexual harassment and that necessary action has been taken in all of three cases. "The Commission in a recent communication received information that the cases of sexual abuse are still prevalent in the Home and there is no reporting being done of the same. The non-reporting of such POCSO offences by the staff of the Home is a serious offence under POCSO Act, 2012 and also jeopardizes the welfare and well-being of children in this Home," the child rights' body said.

The Commission, during inspection, said it had found out that there were frequent visits of foreign nationals said to be providing voluntary services in these Homes. "It is unclear to the Commission on what basis were these foreign nationals permitted to give voluntary services in these Homes and interact with children while their visit to India was for other purposes," it said.

The CES said international students apply for volunteering at such institutions and it is government-to-government process. "It is done legally and there is no prohibition on it. These are licensed organisations. They come bearing proper legal channels," it said.

The NCPCR said it is recommended thatthe Department of Women and Child Development of the Delhi government take appropriate action against this institution to ensure strict compliance with the rules. "A lack of child protection policy in the institution makes the children prone to abuse and neglect and it is strongly recommended that to ensure the safety and security of the children, they must be shifted from these Homes," it said in its report.

The NCPCR recommended that Department of WCD and Department of Education of the Delhi government may inquire whether permission of foreign visitors in the Homes for giving voluntary services was issued by the authorities. In the statement, the CES said, "It is difficult not to reach the conclusion that this is simply an attempt at maligning the reputation of CES and its Director Harsh Mander by misrepresenting facts".

On the allegation of child sex abuse, it said, "The NCPCR has falsely reported that the staff and the team did not share about the incidents at the time of inspection. The home told the members that there hasn't been an incident of child sexual abuse in the recent past. Information with regard to this was also sought in the letter dated 06.10.2020". The statement said there has been no case of sexual abuse of any child by the staff in the home since its inception till date.

"(There has been) no incident in which staff have been accused of sexually abusing children in their care. The details of the cases - three in the past decade but all of older boys having sex with younger boys, with or without their consent - along with FIR copies and court orders were shared with the NCPCR. "The NCPCR have failed to elaborate and substantiate any claim of recent and ongoing abuse which is not basing it on any facts as they do not exist. The homes have a strict child protection policy which is adhered to by all staff and volunteers of the home," it said.

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