The Delhi government Thursday alleged “grave lapses” on part of the staff and management of an NGO-run correction home, after 11 juveniles, who had been moved there from other correction homes, allegedly injured private security guards and fled Wednesday night. One of them was caught later. The 11 have been consvicted on serious charges ranging from robbery to murder and rape, said police.
Delhi Women and Child Development Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam made the observation after inspecting the facility along with the secretary and director of the department. The government has initiated an inquiry into the case. The founder of NGO Prayas, which runs the home, said the juveniles had serious allegations against them, and the director of the home had written to the government over housing them at the facility.
The juveniles are in the 16-18 age group, said police. “We received a call about the incident at 7.15 pm. While escaping from the correction home, the juveniles attacked the security in-charge with an iron rod. They also injured three police personnel deployed at the home and broke open the main gate to escape,” said a senior police officer.
Police said parents of the absconding juveniles were contacted immediately, and one of them, who went back to his home, was caught. He was brought back to the correction home. Efforts are on to trace the others, police said.
A senior officer in the Central District said all 11 juveniles were brought to the home over last few days to maintain social distancing among inmates and ensure correction homes are not crowded. They were kept separately, away from the other inmates, under guidelines put in place following the COVID-19 outbreak in the city.
“Under the new norms, juveniles in conflict with the law brought to our homes are quarantined for two weeks. They are kept in separate rooms within the same premises as a precautionary measure. Accordingly, these 11 juveniles were also kept separately,” said Gautam.
According to the management of the home, around 7 pm last night, the juveniles allegedly managed to overpower the private security guards using a metal rod and four wooden sticks extracted from a carrom board.
“I find it a little difficult to believe that 11 juveniles could flee using one iron rod and a few pieces of wooden sticks. Prima facie, there appears to have been grave lapses on the part of the staff and management of the home. How did they manage to break open the lock? Three policemen were present at the entrance as well. The NGO has been running the home for about 20 years now,” said the minister.
Prayas founder Amod Kanth told The Indian Express: “The inmates who fled were brought to the home for the purpose of quarantine. They would have been taken back after the completion of the quarantine period. They were accordingly kept separately. This home is actually not suitable for the kind of juveniles who were brought. I would never use the word hardened criminals for juveniles but they have certain serious allegations against them. So they should not have been brought here. The director of the home had in fact written to the government flagging this issue.”
Responding to this, Gautam said: “I am not aware of any letter from their end. However, the fact remains that the facility is quite spacious and the inmates may have been shifted for quarantine to ease space crunch elsewhere. Also, the home currently has only 11 inmates. So space was more than adequate. We also must keep in mind that the government funds such facilities.”
He said a four-member team has been constituted to inquire into the case. It has been asked to submit a report within three days.
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