The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked Lawyers Collective (LC), its president Anand Grover and unknown office bearers for alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA).
According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), it registered the case of violation of Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act (FCRA), criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust on June 13, after receiving a Home Ministry report in this regard.
In a statement on Tuesday, the organisation and its Trustees, the organisation and its Trustees, including founding members Anand Grover and Indira Jaising, expressed shock and outrage at the CBI move. They alleged that the FIR had no basis in fact and in law.
It has been filed to target the organisation and its office bearers to silence them for the cases and issues that they have taken up in the past and continue to take up since 2016. LC is seeking competent advice and will defend themselves in accordance with law in every forum,” it said.
“Even at the time, LC had pointed out that the FCRA proceedings were taken against it because its office bearers had taken up sensitive cases against the leading figures of the BJP and the Government of India, including Mr. Amit Shah, the present Home Minister, in the Sohrabuddin case, amongst others,” said the statement.
Unknown officer-bearers and functionaries of the NGO, private persons and public servants have also been made accused in the FIR.
The complaint from the Home Ministry said that the NGO was registered for carrying out social activities and it received ₹32.39 crore from 2006-07 to 2014-15. However, the violation of the FCRA was noticed in 2010, the complaint said.
The complaint said the site inspection was carried out at the office premises of the NGO between January 19 to 23 in 2016, and also the response filed by the Lawyers Collective was not found to be satisfactory.
In November 2016, the Home Ministry had cancelled the registration of Lawyers Collective under the FCRA, stopping the organisation from accepting funding from abroad.
Six months earlier, the NGO's foreign funding licence had been suspended. In May this year, the NGO was issued a notice by the Supreme Court for the alleged violations.
“Lawyers Collective sees this as a blatant attack of the right to representation of all persons, particularly the marginalised and those who dissent in their views from the ruling establishment. It is also an attack on the right to free speech and expression and an attack on the legal profession as such.
“The right to legal representation is a guaranteed fundamental right under the Constitution of Indian and is part of the jurisprudence of every civilised country of the world,” the statement said, while expressing surprise that notice had been issued in the petition filed against the LC by an organization that had no income or PAN card, a mandatory requirement for filing a PIL.
“In the recent past, office bearers of LC have represented activists detained in the Bhima Koregaon case and other politically sensitive cases such as that involving the Police Commissioner of West Bengal, Rajiv Kumar. LC’s Trustees have also been vocal on the subversion of due process of law in the matter of the alleged sexual harassment of a former employee of the Supreme Court of India, while not commenting on the merits of the case,” the LC said.
Referring to the FCRA proceedings, they said that even at that time, the LC had pointed out that the proceedings were taken against it because its office bearers had taken up sensitive cases against the leading figures of the BJP and the Government of India, including Amit Shah, the present Home Minister, in the Sorabbudin case, amongst others.
“There was no basis in MHA’s allegations of violation of the FCRA. For example, apart from the fact that there was no prohibition under the FCRA for Ms Jaising to receive remuneration from LC for her work on women’s rights, which is well-known and in the public domain, the said remuneration was being paid before she became ASG and continued during and after her tenure in that capacity, with the permission of the Competent Authority i.e. the Ministry of Law and Justice the Law Minister under the Law Officers (Terms and Conditions) Rules, which has been admitted by the MHA. This can hardly be the basis of alleged offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Similarly, official expenses reimbursed to Anand Grover were permissible under the FCRA. All such submissions were simply ignored by the MHA.”