Updated: July 25, 2019 5:46:11 pm
The Bombay High Court Thursday said no coercive steps can be taken against advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover on the basis of the FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) this June in connection with a foreign funding case, ANI reported.
The court’s direction came after the senior counsels sought quashing of the FIR registered against the Lawyers Collective, an NGO run by them, under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). The court also sought a response from the CBI by August 19.
The relief came nearly two weeks after the investigating agency conducted raids at five locations in Mumbai and Delhi. A CBI statement later claimed “certain incriminating documents have been recovered” during the searches and its investigation is continuing.
Acting on a complaint from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the CBI had registered an FIR in Mumbai, naming Grover, unknown office bearers of Lawyers Collective and unknown private persons and public servants. Suspected offences listed include criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, false statement made in declaration and criminal misconduct.
In 2016, the MHA had cancelled the FCRA licence of Lawyers Collective for alleged violation of FCRA provisions after an inspection of its books of accounts and records. It had pointed out that the NGO “was registered for carrying out ‘social’ activities” and had “received foreign contribution amounting to Rs 32.39 crore” from 2006-07 to 2014-15, but money was used for “political purposes”.
In May this year, the Lawyers Collective was issued notice by the Supreme Court after a petition filed by another organisation called Lawyers Voice sought direction to the Centre to book Jaising, Grover and their NGO for alleged violation of rules related to receipt and use of foreign funds.
In a statement following the registration of the FIR, the Lawyers Collective said it “believes that the FIR has no basis in fact and law. It is to target the Lawyers Collective and its office bearers, to silence them as they have taken up sensitive cases in the past, and continue to take them up. The Lawyers Collective is seeking competent advice and will defend themselves in accordance with law in every forum.”
In its order cancelling the licence of Lawyers Collective on November 27, 2016, the MHA had said there were discrepancies in foreign contributions cited by the association in its returns filed with the Ministry. The order also stated that Jaising, who was Additional Solicitor General (ASG) under the previous UPA government, had violated FCRA norms by receiving foreign funds when she was a government servant.
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