The Delhi Police have lodged a first information report against two children’s homes run by human rights activist Harsh Mander’s non-governmental organisation under the juvenile justice law, PTI reported on Friday. The FIR was lodged on the basis of a complaint filed by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, alleging cruelty and abuse.

“The case has been registered on the basis of an inspection by teams of NCPCR in October 2020 in these homes,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Delhi) Atul Thakur, according to ThePrint.

The NGO, the Centre for Equity Studies, has denied the charges levelled against it. In a statement, the organisation said that it has not yet received the copy of the inspection report from the commission.

The organisation said that it has sought the complaint and was willing to comply with the child right body’s recommendations. The organisation said it was complying with the monthly visits of various authorities, including the Child Welfare Committee, the District Child Protection Unit and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.

“It is also further important to note that NCPCR has not waited to weigh and evaluate the feedback
and suggestions of the government agencies mainly CWC and SSA who visited the homes
after NCPCR’s visit,” the statement said. “The SSA visit done on 24th December 2020 has not found any violations of child rights or sexual abuse in the home.”

According to the FIR registered on February 2, the Centre for Equity Studies and its two children homes have violated sections 75 (cruelty to children) and 83(2) (using children for illegal activities) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. The two homes are Ummeed Aman Ghar and Khushi Rainbow Home, both located in South Delhi.

The child rights body had sent a 24-page report to the police on December 30, levelling allegations against the children homes and the NGO. In the report, the NCPCR said the children’s home made four or five girls partcipate in the Citizenship Amendment Act protests. It also claimed that a boy in Ummeed Aman Ghar was told that “the government only works for Hindus and keeps fighting in Pakistan”.

The report said: “Such usage of children is illegal and prima facie a violation of Section 83(2) of JJ Act, 2015.”

The child rights body also accused the homes of packing children in small cabins and not following physical distancing norms. NCPCR chairperson Priyank Kanoongo told ThePrint that eight to ten children were made to stay in tiny cabins. The NCPCR has sought an inquiry over violations under the Epidemic Diseases Act and other laws related to Covid-19.

The child rights body had also alleged that the children homes had not dealt with cases of sexual violations. The report listed three such incidents from 2012, 2013 and 2016. It said the homes had claimed that there were no cases of sexual offences since its inception, but the child rights body said it found that such incidents had taken place.

The NGO denied the allegations. “The NCPCR has falsely reported that the staff and the team did not share about the incidents at the time of inspection,” it said. “The homes told the members that there hasn’t been an incident of child sexual abuse in the recent past.”

In its report sent to the police, the children’s body had also asked the police to register an FIR against Mander for making false statements. But the police have not done so. “The charges against Mander are under investigation and FIR will be lodged if found guilty,” a senior police officer told ThePrint.

The NCPCR chief said that if the police do not file a case, they will move the courts.

After the NCPCR raided the homes in October, Mander had said the raids were the government’s attempt to defame him and target those who had peacefully protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

“It is no secret that the Union government, using various official agencies which fall under its control, has launched a massive campaign against those who participated in the peaceful non-violent protests against the CAA/NRC/NPR from December 2019 to March 2020,” he had said. Mander had said that such “witch hunts” were designed to damage the reputations of people and close down organisations.

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