The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has directed police to probe allegations of 34 children allegedly going missing from an orphanage in Gandhidham town of Kutch district, as well as the alleged gangrape of a minor girl by two students at the same institute. The directive comes after the district magistrate (DM) of Kutch and superintendent of police (SP) of Kutch (east) failed to file a report in this regard, twice, over the past year.
Vinod Khubchandani, a resident of Gandhidham, had approached the NHRC in 2017 and complained about 34 children at orphanage-cum-child protection home Jeevan Prabhat having gone missing. Khubchandani had alleged that these children were sexually abused and subjected to atrocities at the institute run by the Arya Samaj Charitable Trust, an NGO. He claimed that children had gone missing over the past 17 years from the institute that was founded to give shelter to children who had been orphaned in the 2001 earthquake in Kutch.
In August 2018, a girl living at Jeevan Prabhat was allegedly raped by two minor boys, also living at the same institute, and Khubchandani had sought that the management of the institute be also booked in the rape case.
In response, Kutch (east) SP had initially filed a report, stating that the 34 children alleged to have gone missing had actually returned to their parents or relatives. However, the NHRC observed that the children were listed as without any guardians at the time they went missing and so, directed the Kutch DM to initiate action against the institute. Subsequently, Jeevan Prabhat’s licence was cancelled, but the NGO moved the Gujarat High Court (HC) and secured a stay on the cancellation of the licence.
In a report filed with the NHRC in January last year, the Kutch DM stated that no case was registered in connection with the children, nor had any parent or guardian filed any missing persons report in this regard. Jeevan Prabhat, too, didn’t have records of these developments.
The NHRC had transmitted the DM’s Jaunary 2019 report to Khubchandani in May last year and sought his comments.
“The complainant has reiterated his complaint in his comments and has stated that the report is false and baseless and the statements of the parents and relatives of the children were not recorded. He has further raised some issues regarding the pregnancy, gangrape, etc. of minor girl child. Therefore, the Commission is of the opinion that the complainant has raised serious allegations which need to be thoroughly investigated by the Police (sic),” the commission had observed in August last year, while directing the DM and the SP to file a status report by October 24, 2019.
However, the DM and the SP didn’t file the report in October or on the revised date of March 18 this year.
In the meantime, Khubchandani filed an application under the Right to Information Act (RTI) on May 16 this year with the NHRC, seeking copies of action taken reports and details of the current status of the case. Two days later, the NHRC served a reminder to the Kutch DM and the Kutch (east) SP about the pending status report, with instructions to file it within six weeks.
The NHRC has listed the matter for further hearing on July 7.
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