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Indira Jaising, Anand Grover's NGO Lawyers Collective slams government's FCRA ban

Lawyers Collective (LC) – the NGO founded by senior advocates and spouses Indira Jaising and Anand Grover – responded to the home ministry’s 6-month ban order on it receiving foreign funds, by claiming that the ban order was “a malafide act and an act of vindictiveness on the part of the Government” against which the NGO had fought several cases.

The Home Ministry on Tuesday suspended the FCRA registration of LC for six months, claiming that there were discrepancies in the foreign contributions cited by LC in its returns filed with the home ministry and that Jaising had violated FCRA norms by receiving foreign contributions when she was the additional solicitor general of India and hence a government servant, reported the Indian Express.

In a statement on LC’s website they claimed that the government did not serve a notice of the order on the NGO before leaking it to the media – thus aiming to destroy LC’s credibility, as it has fought cases against the government on behalf of terrorist Yakub Memon, IPS officer Saniv Bhatt and Greenpeace member Priya Pillai, among others.

The statement reads as follows:

The lawyers collective condemns the blatant attempt of the government of India to victimize the organization and its office bearers India Jaisng and Anand Grover .This is noting but a gross misuse of the FCRA Act which is being used to suppress any form of dissent . it is far too well know that both Anand Grover and Indira Jaising have represented several persons in their professional capacity as lawyers is several cases against the government and the functionaries including the President of the BJP party , Amit Shah protesting his discharge in the Sorabudin murder case . The lawyers collective intends to challenge the order as unconstitutional and required to be set aside .

The order/show cause notice is a malafide act and an act of vindictiveness on the part of the Government. This is being done because of the cases that Lawyers Collective (‘LC’) and its Trustees, Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover, are involved in, including but are not limited to Sanjiv Bhatt, Yakub Memon and Priya Pillai. The aim is to destroy the credibility of LC by leaking it to the media, before even serving it on LC LC till today has not received the order purportedly issued on 31st May, 2016, though it is available to the press. Specifically on the order, LC submits as follows:1.At the outset, LC states that all the foreign contribution (‘FC’) received were spent for the purposes received and accounted for.

2.The allegation against Ms. Jaising was based on the footing that she was a government servant, who was prohibited from receiving FC under the FCRA However, she was a public servant and not a government servant, on whom there was no bar to receive FC In any event, FC was received only by LC and Ms. Jaising was only paid remuneration for her services rendered to LC, on whom there is no prohibition. This aspect has not even been looked at by the authorities.

3.So far as Mr. Anand Grover is concerned, it was the mandate of LC to work on the issue of Fundamental Rights, including the right to health. The work of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Right to Health was part of LC’s work. No money was received by Anand Grover as foreign contribution. He was only reimbursed expenses incurred by him, while abroad, for doing LC’s work, including telephone and internet expenses.

4.The Novartis case is part of LC’s mandate to work on access to medicines. Expenses were only incurred for that, including for Ms. Jaising for her advice on the case.5.Expenses for workshops/seminars/conferences are part of the mandate of LC and money is spent only for that purpose. This allegation is made for the first time now and not in the observation report dated 29.02.2016.

6.The FC received from abroad can be spent abroad. There is no restriction in FCRA at all.

7.LC entered into legitimate contracts with foreigners to provide services in India and abroad. And expenses were incurred for that reason. There is no violation of FCRA at all.

8.The receipt of FC in FC-utilisation account and, opening of certain bank accounts, transfer of FC from FC-utilization to another utilisation account and from local accounts to FC-utilisation has been explained in detail in the Association reply dated to the Inspection Report but not considered.

9.No money was spent on rallies or dharnas having any political hue or colour. FCRA, 2010 was not applicable for expenses incurred in 2009, while in 2011 and 2014, it was spent from domestic/United Nations funding, which is exempt from FCRA

The Lawyers Collective is most famous amongst non-Indian lawyers for its Bombay high court case against Ashurst and others operating in India, but the NGO and Anand Grover were also the driving force behind the original overturning of section 377 by the Delhi high court. Their fights for the rights of pavement dwellers, those with HIV / AIDS, and many other interventions in the areas of women's rights, drug policy, health and sexuality.

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