The Supreme Court will hear on Friday the Central Bureau of Investigation’s plea against a Bombay High Court order granting stay on the proceedings against Lawyers Collective, a non-profit run by former Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising and senior advocate Anand Grover.
The CBI has also sought the court’s permission to arrest the senior advocates for custodial interrogation.
In June, the High Court had said that the CBI cannot take any coercive steps against the two human rights advocates when they moved the court seeking quashing of the FIR registered against the NGO, under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) for alleged misuse of foreign funding.
Although the CBI had filed the appeal in October, the registry had found defects in it. The plea has been listed two days after the CBI cleared the defects.
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 its order, the MHA also stated that Jaising, who was ASG under the previous UPA government, had violated FCRA norms by receiving foreign funds when she was a government servant.
The cancellation order was challenged in 2017 and is currently pending before a single judge of the Bombay High Court.
The lawyers separately had moved the high court seeking quashing of the FIR filed by CBI in June. The central investigating agency had also raided at least five locations- including the NGO’s offices and the residences of the senior advocates in Bombay and Delhi.
The case on Friday in the Supreme Court will be heard by a bench headed by outgoing chief justice Ranjan Gogoi.
Incidentally, in May a bench led by CJI Gogoi had issued notice to Lawyers Collective in a public interest litigation filed by Lawyers Voice, another NGO seeking a direction to the central government to register an FIR in the two and half-year-old case. In a press statement, Lawyers Collective had said that the SC admitting the PIL seeking pressing of charges against the NGO amounted to “victimisation” against Jaising for being “publicly vocal on issue of due process in in-house inquiry” into allegations of sexual harassment against CJI Gogoi.