Indira Jaising
Indira Jaising

[Breaking]: Home Ministry v. Lawyers Collective: Indira Jaising to challenge NGO’s FCRA licence suspension

Pallavi Saluja

The Home Ministry has today suspended the FCRA licence of NGO – Lawyers Collective.

The licence has been suspended for six months for alleged violation of the provisions of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The NGO, which is run by Senior Advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, will challenge this order.

The suspension of licence practically means that the NGO cannot receive foreign funds for the next six months.

The Home Ministry has asked the NGO to submit its reply within 30 days, after which its registration may even be cancelled.

According to this report, the Home Ministry is alleged that Jaising, while functioning as ASG from July 2009 to May 2014, received remuneration of 96.60 lakh, which is admitted by the NGO in its reply dated March 30, 2016. In its reply, the ‘not for profit’ stated that a remuneration of 81.41 lakh was paid by the NGO, pursuant to the permission of the Central government.

The Home Ministry has, however, expressed its surprise on how a senior law officer, such as an ASG can simultaneously and for such a long period be on the rolls of a private entity. It has alleged that same is in gross violation of the rules applicable to the law officers of the Central government.

The Home Ministry has also alleged that the funds were used for rallies/dharnas and also for various seminars and conferences.

It all started last year in November when Lawyers Collective received a questionnaire from the Home Ministry, which was followed by an inspection of its accounts in January.

Again in March 2016, Lawyers Collective was served with a notice, this time after an inspection of its records. It was then given 30 days to reply to this notice.

Meanwhile, Indira Jaising also filed a formal complaint with the Home Minister Rajnath Singh regarding the “leaks” in the ongoing investigation to the media.

Lawyers Collective has now made it clear that it will challenge the order as unconstitutional.

Read Lawyers Collective Response on the Suspension of Registration under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010

The Lawyers Collective condemns the blatant attempt of the government of India to victimize the organization and its office bearers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover. This is noting but a gross misuse of the FCRA Act which is being used to suppress any form of dissent. It is far too well know that both Anand Grover and Indira Jaising have represented several persons in their professional capacity as lawyers in several cases against the government and the functionaries including the President of the BJP party, Amit Shah protesting his discharge in the Sohrabuddin murder case. The Lawyers Collective intends to challenge the order as unconstitutional and required to be set aside.

The order/show cause notice is a malafide act and an act of vindictiveness on the part of the Government. This is being done because of the cases that Lawyers Collective (‘LC’) and its Trustees, Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover, are involved in, including but are not limited to Sanjiv Bhatt, Yakub Memon and Priya Pillai. The aim is to destroy the credibility of LC by leaking it to the media, before even serving it on LC. LC till today has not received the order purportedly issued on 31st May, 2016, though it is available to the press.

Specifically on the order, LC submits as follows:

  1. At the outset, LC states that all the foreign contribution (‘FC’) received were spent for the purposes received and accounted for.
  1. The allegation against Ms. Jaising was based on the footing that she was a government servant, who was prohibited from receiving FC under the FCRA. However, she was a public servant and not a government servant, on whom there was no bar to receive FC. In any event, FC was received only by LC and Ms. Jaising was only paid remuneration for her services rendered to LC, on whom there is no prohibition. This aspect has not even been looked at by the authorities.
  1. So far as Mr. Anand Grover is concerned, it was the mandate of LC to work on the issue of Fundamental Rights, including the right to health. The work of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Right to Health was part of LC’s work. No money was received by Anand Grover as foreign contribution. He was only reimbursed expenses incurred by him, while abroad, for doing LC’s work, including telephone and internet expenses.
  1. The Novartis case is part of LC’s mandate to work on access to medicines. Expenses were only incurred for that, including for Ms. Jaising for her advice on the case.
  1. Expenses for workshops/seminars/conferences are part of the mandate of LC and money is spent only for that purpose. This allegation is made for the first time now and not in the observation report dated 29.02.2016.
  1. The FC received from abroad can be spent abroad. There is no restriction in FCRA at all.
  2. LC entered into legitimate contracts with foreigners to provide services in India and abroad. And expenses were incurred for that reason. There is no violation of FCRA at all.
  1. The receipt of FC in FC-utilisation account and, opening of certain bank accounts, transfer of FC from FC-utilization to another utilisation account and from local accounts to FC-utilisation has been explained in detail in the Association reply dated to the Inspection Report but not considered.
  1. No money was spent on rallies or dharnas having any political hue or colour. FCRA, 2010 was not applicable for expenses incurred in 2009, while in 2011 and 2014, it was spent from domestic/United Nations funding, which is exempt from FCRA.
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news