The country’s apex body for protection of child rights has turned down a proposal for an inquiry into probable abuse of children at nine ashrams run by sexual assault-tainted self-styled godman Asaram.
Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Kushal Singh rejected a proposal of some members who advocated a countrywide inquiry by the commission, arguing it was “not NCPCR’s role” to carry out such a probe.
“The local police are conducting the investigation. Our role is to monitor the agencies constituted for specific purposes are performing their functions according to law,” Singh, a retired IAS officer, has said in an internal role.
Asaram is currently in judicial custody on charges of forcing a minor girl into oral sex at his Jodhpur ashram on August 15 this year. His son Narayan Sai, also wanted in alleged sexual abuse of girls, has gone into hiding.
Contrary to Singh’s arguments, however, some commission members were of the opinion that the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act empowers it to “inquire into violation of child rights and recommend initiation of proceedings in such cases”.
Nina Nayak, a member, had suggested the report of the proposed inquiry can be forwarded to the investigating agency and later submitted in the court of law. She has said the failure to inquire into other ashrams would mean “overlooking” the role and responsibilities under the Act and would “jeopardise” future of not only the minor girl but many others who might have fallen victim to abuse at these ashrams.
But Singh had strongly countered the claim and said Nayak’s comment was “uncalled” for and “unwarranted” and reiterated that constituting an inquiry committee was not needed.
He claimed the child welfare committee of Shahjahanpur, the victim’s native place, had informed him that an inquiry committee was being constituted.
“The member has exceeded her authority in conveying a decision not taken by the commission,” Singh said.
Nayak hit back saying the matter cannot be left to Rajasthan State Child Rights Commission alone, as it has jurisdiction over only one state while Asaram had ashrams in four other states.
“Probable abuse, exploitation in care, deception and fraud at other ashrams have huge ramifications. Death of four children in two ashrams is already under investigation,” Nayak had said.
“NCPRC surely has the responsibility to intervene while leveraging the support of the best experts across the country,” she said. But despite her strong plea, the commission went along with the chairperson and decided not to conduct an inquiry.
In the past, NPCPR has carried out independent inquiries into allegations of child abuse even when the police were investigation a case.