Updated: September 17, 2021 1:12:24 am
The Enforcement Directorate Thursday conducted searches at offices and residential premises associated with social activist Harsh Mander, in connection with a case of alleged money laundering.
The ED’s case is based on another case registered by Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing against the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), where Mander is a director.
An ED official confirmed the agency was conducting searches at premises associated with Mander, but did not give details of the probe against him. The searches, sources said, were conducted at Adchini, Mehrauli and Vasant Kunj in South Delhi.
“Searches are going on. Our case is based on the Delhi Police FIR in the matter,” an ED official said.
Mander had left for Germany around 3.30 am on Thursday on a fellowship at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. The board of the CES, in a statement, said they were committed to cooperating with the ongoing searches, and would provide all necessary information to the ED.
Delhi Police had registered two cases against CES — one under the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act and another over alleged financial irregularities — following a raid conducted by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) last October at two children’s homes run by the centre. NCPCR had alleged various irregularities, including financial, in the running of the two homes at the time.
In July this year, in response to a petition in the Delhi High Court by CES, the NCPCR had said it had recommended action against the two children’s homes linked to Mander only after finding various violations and discrepancies on the part of the management. Among the alleged violations, NCPCR mentioned that it had been informed by the children that they were taken to protest sites, including Jantar Mantar.
“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 document to the inspection team,” NCPCR said in the reply.
With regard to the boys’ home, the NCPCR told the court that an employee had “informed” it about cases of child sexual abuse being reported there, and inaction by the management.
“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,” it said.
In a statement, the CES board said the ED search was “a continuation of harassment and coercion of CES and Harsh Mander for being an outspoken and passionate defender of human rights”.
It said, “As you are aware, the Enforcement Directorate has been conducting raids at the office of the Centre for Equity Studies (CES), Umeed Ghar (Children’s Home), and Harsh Mander’s residence from 9.30 am… Over the last several months, the organisation has been subjected to raids, investigations, and inquiries by different government agencies including Delhi Police, and NCPCR. CES has cooperated with every government agency by providing all organisational details requested…including balance sheets and other financial and programmatic documents…
“It is deeply distressing for the entire team of CES and this continued harassment has created hurdles in the path of our organisational vision of working for the poorest of the poor and most marginalised sections of society.”
On Thursday morning, employees who reached the CES office in Adchini after the searches started, were not allowed inside. They said most of their work involved research pertaining to human rights.
A statement signed by 565 signatories, including several activists and public intellectuals, condemned the ED action and said the searches were part of a “continuing chain of abuse of state institutions” to silence its critics.
The signatories include Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, former Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, economist Jean Dreze, senior advocate Indira Jaising, DU professor Apoorvanand, women’s activists Kavita Krishnan and Annie Raja, social and environmental activist Medha Patkar, and former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro.
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