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Delhi HC allows Greenpeace to operate two domestic accounts

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday allowed NGO Greenpeace India to operate two of its domestic accounts, which were frozen by the central government last month, to accept fresh domestic contribution.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher also allowed Greenpeace to liquidate the fixed deposits and utilise the funds for running the organisation.

The court said it was giving the interim relief to the NGO so that it can continue to work at the moment.

It, however, clarified that the NGO cannot utilise the amount frozen by the government.

The court was hearing a plea by Greenpeace India to de-freeze its international and national bank accounts, which were blocked following a home ministry directive last month.

The court took note of Greenpeace arguments that the NGO was on the brink of closure in India due to fund crunch.

"You have to release some funds... they need to pay the bills. The way of going forward is that you (Centre) release some funds," the court said.

The court also directed the home ministry to decide within eight weeks Greenpeace's application under Rule 14 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules (FCRR) which says 25 percent of the unutilised amount in the FCRA account can be used with government approval.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, the government's law officer, told the court that the home ministry was willing to consider the NGO's application but the NGO has to come clean with details of bank accounts.

"Greenpeace has not responded to our queries," he said.

The NGO, however, accused the Centre of trying to shut it off using the FCRA.

The court also clarified that Greenpeace will not disturb the balance amount which they were maintaining when their accounts were frozen by the government.

In a statement, Greenpeace India called the interim relief a "lifeline" and vowed to restart immediately its campaigns to reduce air pollution, protect forests and boost solar power.

The Centre has also accused Greenpeace of violating the FCRA rules by merging its foreign contributions with domestic donations.

The Greenpeace argued that the suspension of licence and freezing of accounts were completely "illegal and unconstitutional".

The NGO told the court the home ministry's actions showed evidence of "bad faith" and was an attempt to silence Greenpeace India because of its high profile campaigns in areas like coal mining, air pollution and the use of pesticides in agriculture.

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