The NCPCR report, “lacks substance and merit”, and its claim children from the homes were sent to anti-CAA protests, violating the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, will sound the “death knell of democracy”, DCPCR stated.
Disputing a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) report based on which the Delhi Police had lodged FIRs against two child care homes in February, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) has filed an affidavit in the Delhi High Court asserting that such bodies “cannot be mediums for advancing a political ideology and subversion of democracy”.
The NCPCR report, dated November 30, 2020, “lacks substance and merit”, and its claim that children from the homes were sent to anti-CAA protests, violating the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, will sound the “death knell of democracy”, states the affidavit.
The homes – Umeed Aman Ghar for boys and Khushi Rainbow Home Shelter for girls – are run by the Rainbow Foundation. The buildings in which they are located are leased by the Delhi government to the Centre for Equity Studies, which has civil rights activist Harsh Mander as its director.
When contacted, Mander said he was involved in running the homes till 2014, but has had no formal association with them since then.
NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said he had not received the DCPCR affidavit, and the NCPCR would clear its position in court.
The DCPCR, a statutory body of the Delhi government constituted under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, is among the respondents in a related case in the HC.
The affidavit, seen by The Indian Express, says the NCPCR report prepared on the basis of an inspection on October 1, 2020, and the subsequent proceedings based on it should be “quashed”.
It cites two visits by the District Inspection Committee (DIC) on October 6, 2020, and February 24, 2021; a visit by the Child Welfare Committee-II (CWC, south district) on December 23, 2020; and a visit by the State Inspection Committee (SIC) on February 9, 2021. These are monitoring bodies constituted under the Juvenile Justice Act.
“It is clear from four inspections of three statutory bodies that the NCPCR observations, except on some specific shortcomings, lack substance and merit. They are not borne out by the evidence,” states the affidavit.
The NCPCR had, in its report, flagged an instance of a child saying, “Modi ji kewal Hindu ki sunte hai aur Pakistan me ladte hai” at an anti-CAA/NRC protest, which, it said, was prima facie a violation of Section 83(2) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
The DCPCR has said it is “unclear” how protesting against the government’s policy decisions and holding poor and even incorrect opinions about the government can be termed as illegal and that “any conclusion in that direction is the death knell of democracy”.
The NCPCR and related bodies “cannot be mediums for advancing a political ideology, subversion of democracy and punishing people for holding opinions, however different or inconvenient,” says the affidavit.
“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 be accorded to children,” it says.
It also faults the Delhi government’s Department for Women and Child Development for sitting on requests to renew registrations of child care institutions, including that of Umeed Aman Ghar.
The lack of registration renewal was among the 11 alleged violations flagged by the NCPCR in its report. The other red flags it had raised include alleged sexual abuse in 2012, 2013, and 2016, multiple sources of funding, participation of children in anti-CAA and NRC protests, visits by foreigners, poor physical infrastructure, and violation of Covid-19 norms.
According to the DCPCR, just five days after the NCPCR’s inspection, the DIC (district inspection committee) team visited Umeed Aman Ghar and, satisfied with the arrangements, recommended that its licence be renewed.
Later, the Child Welfare Committee-II, South Delhi District, studied all the issues raised by the NCPCR and produced “a completely contradictory report”. “It concurred only on two points with NCPCR observations: the non-maintenance of the personal belonging register and need of renovation of building walls and porta cabins,” says the affidavit.
According to the DCPCR, Umeed Aman Ghar had applied for licence renewal on July 8, 2020, a day before the expiry of registration. “On receipt of the application for renewal of CCI registration, the Department of Women & Child Development did not grant any provisional registration… Therefore, Section 41(4) came into effect and the Child Care Institution’s (CCI) receipt of application for registration became the proof of provisional registration to run an institution for six months. Therefore, the observation in the inspection report of the NCPCR in October 2020 that the Child Care Institution, Umeed Aman Ghar (UAG), did not have renewal of registration is devoid of legal understanding,” it says.
On allegations of sexual abuse, the DCPCR quoted the CWC report as having said that FIRs were duly lodged by the management, under the guidance of the CWC, and corrective action taken based on court orders and Juvenile Justice Board regulations.
“The CWC also observed that the home is adhering to most of the norms of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and Rules 2016. The children are found to be happy in the CCI and doing good progression in terms of their health and education. The children have shared that they live as a family and want to stay together,” says the affidavit.
“The NCPCR does not understand how NGOs fund themselves, and rarely does any NGO have a single source of funding for their operations,” it says, adding that the NCPCR is “assuming to themselves a power that they do not possess”.
The affidavit also states that the visits of foreign nationals offer a “healthy cultural exchange”; and the number of staff employed in the homes is adequate to meet the needs of the children.
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