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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has registered an FIR against NGO Lawyers Collective for alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The FIR names Senior Counsel Anand Grover and other office bearers of Lawyers Collective as well.
The probe agency acted against the NGO, its functionaries as well as certain private individuals after receiving a complaint from the Under Secretary to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, Anil Kumar Dhasmana. This complaint states that after inspection of the books of accounts and the records of the NGO, a prima facie violation of the FCRA 2010 was noticed.
Lawyers Collective, Grover, and others are booked for suspected offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating, making of false statement in the declaration under the FCRA 2010, and criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. In addition to invoking the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the CBI has charged them under Sections 33, 35, 37, and 39 of the FCRA 2010 and Section 13(2) with Section 13(1)(d) of the PC Act.
The Home Ministry’s complaint states that after prima facie irregularities were found, a response from Lawyers Collective was sought. The reply was submitted by the NGO in March 2016, but was found to be unsatisfactory. Thus, the Ministry suspended Lawyers Collective’s FCRA registration pending appropriate action. Subsequently, a show cause notice was issued under the provisions of the FCRA.
In July 2016, a written reply was submitted by the NGO, which was again found to be unsatisfactory and did not provide “adequate explanation vis-a-vis the violations found”. Eventually, in November 2016, the MHA cancelled the FCRA registration for Lawyers Collective.
The Home Ministry’s complaint to the CBI has also taken objection to a government law officer taking foreign contributions. In this light, it states that the fact that Senior Advocate Indira Jaising received a salary of Rs. 96.60 lakh from Lawyers Collective while serving as Additional Solicitor General from 2009 to 2014, is seen as a violation of the FCRA.
“The ASG being a Public Servant of a high stature and handling such sensitive matters have thus violated the thrust of the FCRA 2010 and consequently Section 3 and Section 11 thereof by not seeking clearances from the Govt. of India for receiving foreign contribution in the form of remuneration from Lawyers Collective…”
A petition challenging the cancellation of Lawyers Collective’s FCRA registration is pending before the Supreme Court. More recently, a PIL was filed by another NGO named Lawyers Voice, seeking a direction to the Central government for registration of an FIR against Jaising, Grover, and Lawyers Collective for offences under the IPC, PMLA and PC Act.
The Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had issued notice in the case. The order passed by the Court states,
“We make it clear that the pendency of this writ petition will not come in the way of the investigating agencies of the government of India to act in accordance with law.”
This PIL led to Senior Counsel Indira Jaising, Grover, and Lawyers Collective issuing a press statement claiming victimisation for taking up the issue of sexual harassment allegations against CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
Read the FIR filed by the CBI: