New Delhi: The CBI has registered a case against NGO Lawyers Collective (LC) and senior lawyer Anand Grover on charges of violating rules under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. (Also read: CBI Raids Properties of Ex-UP Minister Gayatri Prajapati)
The agency said that Grover used foreign contribution for personal benefits and spent it outside India which is a violation of FEMA. CBI also said that senior lawyer Indira Jaising received Rs 96.6 lakh remuneration from foreign contributions made to the NGO during her term as the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) between 2009-14. The complaint said expenses of her foreign trips as ASG were borne by the NGO without the Home Ministry’s prior approval.
The CBI has also invoked Indian Penal Code provisions related to criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and cheating, besides criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
In its FIR, the agency says that after it appeared prima facie that there were violations, the Ministry got an on-site inspection of the accounts done in January 2016 and sought explanations. Not satisfied with the replies, the Ministry finally cancelled the LC’s registration in 2016.
The inspection report, which is part of the FIR, lists alleged violations on 14 counts. They include alleged participation in political activities, diversion or misuse of foreign contributions, and their use on air travels, draft legislation meetings and dharnas.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the organisation and its trustees, including founding members Grover and Jaising, expressed shock and outrage at the CBI move. They alleged that the FIR had no basis in fact and in law.
“It has been filed to target the organisation and its office bearers to silence them for the cases and issues that they have taken up in the past and continue to take up since 2016. LC is seeking competent advice and will defend themselves in accordance with the law in every forum,” it said.
“Even at the time, LC had pointed out that the FCRA proceedings were taken against it because its office bearers had taken up sensitive cases against the leading figures of the BJP and the Government of India, including Amit Shah, the present Home Minister, in the Sohrabuddin case, amongst others,” said the statement.
The LC said that the FIR was based on proceedings under FCRA in which orders for suspension and cancellation of its registration to receive foreign funding were passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2016 but those orders have been challenged before the Bombay High Court.
It said that there was no bar under the Act on Jaising from receiving remuneration for her work on women’s rights. The remuneration was being paid before she became the ASG and continued during and after her tenure and said that official expenses reimbursed to Grover were also permissible.
The NGO also asked why it took about three years for the CBI to file an FIR.