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CBI books Lawyers Collective, office-bearers for alleged FCRA violation

Anand Grover. File

Anand Grover. File   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

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In a statement, Lawyers Collective and its Trustees, including founding members Anand Grover and Indira Jaising, expressed shock and outrage at the CBI move.

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 Regulation Act (FCRA).

In a statement on Tuesday, 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.

The LC said that the FIR was based solely on proceedings under FCRA in which orders for suspension and cancellation of its registration to receive foreign funding were passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2016. The orders have been challenged before the Bombay High Court.

There was no prohibition under the Act on Ms. Jaising receiving remuneration from it for her work on women’s rights, said the organisation. The remuneration was being paid before she became the Additional Solicitor General and continued during and after her tenure, with the permission of the Competent Authority, which had been admitted by the MHA. It said official expenses reimbursed to Mr. Grover were also permissible.

The organisation also raised questions on the almost three year-delay in filing the FIR. The case has been registered on the MHA’s complaint. The CBI has also invoked Indian Penal Code provisions related to criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and cheating, besides criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The LC, earlier registered under FCRA, received more than ₹32 crore in foreign donations between 2006 and 2015. The FIR mentions that after it appeared prima facie that there were violations, the Ministry got on-site inspection of the accounts done in January 2016 and sought explanations. Not satisfied with the replies, the Ministry finally cancelled the Lawyers Collective’s registration in November 2016.

The inspection report, which is part of the FIR, lists alleged violations on 14 counts. They include alleged participation in political activities, diversion or misuse of foreign contributions, and their use on air travels, draft legislation meetings and dharnas.

With respect to draft legislation on HIV/AIDS Bill, “documents also reveal that funds were spent on media advocacy with 67 MPs in March and April 2010 and 99 MPs in August 2010,” alleges the FIR.

Another charge against the LC is of receiving foreign funds specifically meant for Mr. Grover, as the then United Nations Special Rapporteur on Right to Health. The FIR alleges that he appeared in Novartis case in the Supreme Court spending foreign contribution.

Funds were also spent on air travel and other expenses for employees/workers of other organisations and foreigners to attend conferences in Kathmandu, Malaysia, Kenya, Vienna, Austria Mission, USA Consultation, Section 27 Conference, Moscow Consultation and Bangkok Meeting, it is alleged.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 3:19:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cbi-registers-criminal-case-against-lawyers-collective-names-anand-grover-in-fir/article28051166.ece

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