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India
21.06.19
Urgent Interventions

Criminal case filed against Lawyers Collective and its representatives including Mr. Anand Grover

New information

IND 004 / 0519 / OBS 043.1

Judicial harassment

India
June 21, 2019


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership ofthe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received newinformation and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation inIndia.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliablesources about the filing of a criminal case against the Indian NGO Lawyers Collective and its representatives, including Mr.Anand Grover, a human rights lawyer currently serving as the organisation’sPresident[1].Lawyers Collective is a prominent public interest service provider in Indiawith anestablished record of setting high standards in human rights advocacy, legalaid and litigation[2].

According to the information received, onJune 13, 2019, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a criminal caseagainst Lawyers Collective, Mr. Anand Grover and other representatives functionariesof the organisation under Sections 120-B (“criminalconspiracy”), 406 (“criminalbreach of trust”), 420 (“cheating”) and199 (“false statement made indeclaration”) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC); and Sections 33 (“making of false statement, declaration ordelivering false accounts”), 35 (“punishment for contravention of anyprovisions of the Act”), 37 (“penalty for offences where no separatepunishment has been provided”), and 39 (“offences by companies”)of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA); and Sections 13 (1) (d)and 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PC) 1988[3].

Thecharges filed by the CBI are based on a report of the Ministry of Home Affairs,which had resulted in the suspension of Lawyers Collective’s FCRA license onMay 31, 2016. The FCRA license was subsequently not renewed on October 28, 2016,and then cancelled on November 27, 2016. Lawyers Collective challenged the cancellationand non-renewal on January 25, 2017 and March 31, 2017, respectively in theHigh Court of Bombay which is under consideration (see background information).FCRA cancellation and non-renewal were based on this report by the Ministry ofHome Affairs.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern aboutthe ongoing harassment against Lawyers Collective andMr. Anand Grover by the Government of India. The Observatory calls uponthe Indian authorities to put an immediate end to theseacts of harassment, which seem to be aimed to punish Lawyers Collective and its representatives for their human rights work,including court litigation in several sensitive cases and cases of human rightsviolations.

Background information:

On May 31, 2016, theMinistry of Home Affairs suspended the FCRA registration of Lawyers Collective.In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs leaked the suspension notice to thepress before Lawyers Collective received a copy of it. This suspension of theFCRA registration was based on allegations that Lawyers Collective, in particularMr. Grover and Ms. Indira Jaising, co-founders of the Lawyers Collective,had violated FCRA regulations.

These allegations include the followingviolations of FCRA regulations: a) remunerations paid by Lawyers Collective toMs. Jaising for services provided by her while she was also serving as agovernment servant (as the Additional Solicitor General of India); b) thereimbursement of expenses for telephone and internet incurred by Mr. Groverwhile he was serving as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health; c) LawyersCollective’s use of funds it had received through the FCRA to organise dharnas[4]and rallies. Lawyers Collective has denied all the aforementioned allegations.

In January 2017, the Bombay High Court passed an interim orderunfreezing the domestic and non-FCRA bank accounts of Lawyers Collective. TheCourt ruled that while the Government of India had powers under the FCRA to“regulate or, even prevent the acceptance of foreign funds by an association,the Act did not provide for a government to stifle the very functioning ofindividuals or associations”.

On May 8, 2019, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice ofIndia Ranjan Gogoi issued a notice in a petition filed on May 6 by anorganisation called ‘Lawyers Voice.’ The petition demanded that theGovernment of India initiate criminal proceedings against Lawyers Collective, Mr. Anand Grover and Ms. IndiraJaising, for the alleged misuse offoreign funding under the 2010 FCRA.

The bench issued the noticedespite the fact that the petition did not provide any supporting information,and while the cancellation of Lawyers Collective’sFCRA licence is still being challenged by Lawyers Collective before the High Court ofBombay.

OnMay 15, 2019, Mr. Anil Kumar Dhasmana, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of HomeAffairs , wrote to the Director of the CBI for “further investigation as perlaw” against Lawyers Collective.

Actionsrequested:

Please write to the authorities in India,urging them to:

i. Put an end to all acts ofharassment, including at the judicial level, against Lawyers Collective, Mr.Anand Grover, Ms. Indira Jaising as well as ofall human rights defenders in India and ensure that they areable to carry out their activities without hindrance;

ii. Take steps to repeal or comprehensively amend theForeign Contribution Regulation Act, in line with the legal analysis of the former UN SpecialRapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association;

iii. Conform to the provisionsof the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 bythe United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2.;

iv. Ensure in all circumstancesrespect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance withinternational human rights instruments ratified by India.

Addresses:

· Mr. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister ofIndia, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in

· Mr. Amit Shah, Union Minister of Home Affairs ofIndia, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in

· Mr. RajivGauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in

· Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, of India, Fax:+91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in

· Justice (Retd.) H.L. Dattu,Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 24651329. Email: chairnhrc@nic.in

· Mr. KhaleelAhmad, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human RightsCommission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in

· H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to theUnited Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

· H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri, Embassy of India to theEuropean Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638/ +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassyof India located in your country.

***

Geneva-Paris, June 21, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of thisappeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of HumanRights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme isto prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders.OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the EuropeanUnion Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civilsociety.

[1] Mr. Grover is also a formerUnited Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health.

[2] Lawyers Collective isbased in New Delhi with its registered office in Mumbai and is a group oflawyers with a mission to empower and change the status of marginalised groupsthrough the effective use of law, and an engagement in human rights advocacy,legal aid and litigation. It was co-founded by human rights lawyers Mr. AnandGrover and Ms. Indira Jaising.

[3] Section 13 (2) - “Any public servant who commits criminal misconductshall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less thanone year but which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to fine”,read with Section 13 (1) (d) “A public servant is said to commit the offence ofcriminal misconduct, if he,- (i) by corrupt or illegal means, obtains forhimself or for any other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage; or(ii) by abusing his position as a public servant, obtains for himself or forany other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage; or (iii) whileholding office as a public servant, obtains for any person any valuable thingor pecuniary advantage without any public interest”.

[4] A form ofpeaceful demonstration, consisting in sitting and fasting at the doorstep of anoffender until death or the demand is granted.

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