In its order cancelling the licence of Lawyers Collective on November 27, 2016, the MHA had said there were discrepancies in foreign contributions cited by the association in its returns filed with the Ministry.
Acting on a complaint from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the CBI has registered an FIR against the Lawyers Collective, a rights issue NGO run by senior lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, for alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) and criminal offences under sections of the Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Corruption Act.
The FIR, registered in Mumbai on June 13, also names Grover, unknown office bearers of Lawyers Collective and unknown private persons and public servants. Suspected offences listed include criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, false statement made in declaration and criminal misconduct.
Explained: What is the FCRA violation case against Indira Jaisingh’s NGO
In 2016, the MHA had cancelled the FCRA licence of Lawyers Collective for alleged violation of FCRA provisions after an inspection of its books of accounts and records. It had pointed out that the NGO “was registered for carrying out ‘social’ activities” and had “received foreign contribution amounting to Rs 32.39 crore” from 2006-07 to 2014-15, but money was used for “political purposes”.
The CBI FIR has attached the findings of the FCRA investigation conducted by the MHA.
In May this year, the Lawyers Collective was issued notice by the Supreme Court after a petition filed by another organisation called Lawyers Voice sought direction to the Centre to book Jaising, Grover and their NGO for alleged violation of rules related to receipt and use of foreign funds — the matter is to come up next month.
In a statement Tuesday, the Lawyers Collective expressed “shock and outrage at the action of the CBI” and said: “The Lawyers Collective believes that the FIR has no basis in fact and law. It is to target the Lawyers Collective and its office bearers, to silence them as they have taken up sensitive cases in the past, and continue to take them up. The Lawyers Collective is seeking competent advice and will defend themselves in accordance with law in every forum.”
“The LC has reason to believe that its officer bearers are personally being targeted for speaking up in defence of human rights, secularism and independence of the judiciary in all fora more particularly in their capacity as senior lawyers in court. The LC sees this as a blatant attack of the right to representation of all persons, particularly the marginalised and those who dissent in their views form the ruling party. It is also an attack in the right to free speech and expression and an attack on the legal profession as such,” the statement said.
In its order cancelling the licence of Lawyers Collective on November 27, 2016, the MHA had said there were discrepancies in foreign contributions cited by the association in its returns filed with the Ministry. The order also stated that Jaising, who was Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of India under the previous UPA government, had violated FCRA norms by receiving foreign funds when she was a government servant.
The CBI FIR has attached the findings of the FCRA investigation conducted by the MHA. The findings observe: “Large amounts of foreign contributions were found to have been spent on air travel, boarding and lodging and local travel of trusts Sh Anand Grover and various contractual employees from different parts of the country for draft legislation meetings, dharnas and advocacy with MPs.”
These meetings, according to MHA, were conducted in connection with draft legislation of the HIV/AIDS Bill. “Spending foreign contribution on advocacy with media and MPs is in violation of the main spirit of FCRA,” the MHA said.
Lawyers Collective, according to MHA, used Rs 13 lakh foreign contribution in advocacy with MPs or the media to organise rallies/dharnas, draft legislation meetings in 2009, 2011 and 2014. The report said the NGO also organised a protest of 250 people at Rs 200/person outside the Law Ministry in 2009 for the HIV Bill.
“To hold paid dharnas by utilisation of foreign contribution is a violation of FCRA,” the MHA report said, adding that lobbying with MPs for a legislation was an attempt to interfere with the political process and Parliamentary institutions.
The MHA probe also held use of foreign contribution for travels of Grover after he was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur for Health in 2008 as violation of FCRA. In the Novartis case, the MHA said, foreign travels of Grover and Jaising were funded by foreign contributions even though Jaising was not associated with the case. Travels of other employees were also similarly funded, the MHA said.
It also mentioned a charity dinner organised by Lawyers Collective in New York in 2013 which was attended by Grover. The MHA said all these were violation of the FCRA.
Source: Read Full Article