The incident of molestation of blind children at the National Association for the Blind, New Delhi, allegedly by a visiting British national, Murray Ward, was brought to the notice of the Delhi High Court through a Public Interest Litigation, which sought its directions, to ensure the safety and security of the children.
The Delhi High Court bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar today issued notice on the public interest litigation petition filed by one Prashant Kumar, who has completed his M.A. in Social Work from the Delhi University, and is now a law student. The Court has issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi, Department of Social Welfare, GNCTD, Department of Women and Child Development , GNCTD, and the Delhi Police, and has directed them to submit a status report on the incident.
On the evening of September 2, a staff member of the National Association for the Blind (NAB) caught the accused sitting with three students in an objectionable position, and recorded a short video, catching the accused in the act, before alerting the administration. The video has now been taken as evidence in the ongoing investigation. The accused was taken into custody on September 3.
The petition alleges absence of due care by the NAB administration to ascertain whether the accused was a threat to the very children he claimed to assist, which is indicative of lax standards of verification of the organisation’s personnel and volunteers. The petition claims that the Delhi Government ought to have a framework in place to guide non-governmental organizations in the hiring of personnel, or ensuring that background checks or verification of volunteers are taken before allowing them to work.
The petition also alleges that the Delhi Government and its agencies neglected their duties to protect persons with disabilities from all forms of abuse, violence, and exploitation, and provide legal remedies against such incidents. The Delhi Government is expected to take steps for avoiding such incidents, and prescribe the procedure for its reporting, the petition claims. The Delhi Government also ought to take steps to rescue, protect and rehabilitate victims of such incidents, and create awareness and make available information among the public, it says, citing the relevant legislation.
Because India is a signatory to the U.N.Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006, the incident at NAB clearly shows the Respondents to be negligent in securing the protection from exploitation, abuse and violence of children with disabilities.
The petition also claims that the respondents are negligent in securing the protection from violence, abuse and exploitation of children with disabilities, as required under Section 7 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016.
The petition has sought a court-monitored investigation by constituting a multi-disciplinary SIT, to actively monitor the investigation process. Other prayers include a time-bound investigation, immediate protection to the victims under witness protection scheme by the competent authority, and formulation of regulations for volunteers and donors who visit these special schools.