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Six months after suspending the FCRA registration of Lawyers Collective, the NGO run by noted lawyer Indira Jaising, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has cancelled its FCRA registration permanently, thereby barring the organisation from receiving foreign funds. In its order, dated November 27, the ministry alleged that there were discrepancies in foreign contributions cited by the association in its returns filed with the MHA. The order also stated that Jaising, who was the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of India under the previous UPA government, had violated Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) norms by receiving foreign funds when she was a government servant.
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In June, the ministry had suspended Lawyers Collective’s (LC) FCRA account for six months and issued a notice asking why the NGO’s account should not be cancelled.
In an email reply, Jaisingh said, “Lawyers Collective has received (an) order dated November 27 cancelling its registration. Strangely enough, the order is passed on a Sunday, when government offices are closed. The order is regards LC’s replies in fact and in law.”
Jaising wrote, “…certain new allegations have surfaced such as ‘diversion’ of foreign contribution and utilisation for ‘personal gain’, which are not borne out by the facts or the records (and) are absolutely false and defamatory. We are exploring all legal options to challenge the cancellation order, including its defamatory contents, and will take necessary action in an appropriate time.”
A senior government official told The Indian Express that LC has also been put on the list of 25 NGOs found allegedly taking part in activities detrimental to the country’s interest.
To this, Jaisingh remarked, “We call upon the government to make the intelligence reports (based on which LC was put under the list of 25 NGOs) public so that we have an opportunity to challenge the reports against us, an elementary tool of natural justice.”
Jaising, who served as ASG between July 2009 and May 2014, has represented social activist Teesta Setalvad in an FCRA violation case against Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace. She also represented former Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt in his applications to have a Supreme Court-monitored SIT probe into two FIRs filed against him by Gujarat Police.
Jaising’s husband Anand Grover, a senior Supreme Court lawyer and part of LC, was part of a lawyers’ team to petition the Supreme Court on behalf of 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon hours before he was to be hanged.
In its showcause, the MHA has alleged that the NGO has “indulged in lobbying with Members of Parliament and thereby influencing the political processes and parliamentary institutions”, which, according to the Home Ministry, is in violation of FCRA norms.
Lawyers Collective, according to the notice, used Rs 13 lakh out of foreign contribution in advocacy with MPs or the media to organise rallies/dharnas, draft legislation meetings in 2009, 2011 and 2014.