Smear campaign to tarnish image of Lawyers Collective
PUCL strongly condemns the continued persecution of Senior Advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover and the `Lawyers Collective’ organisation run by them, by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) using the coercive provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 in an arbitrary, biased and politically motivated manner.
The vindictiveness is evident from the fact that the Order dated 31.5.2016 of the Central Government suspending the FCRA registration of Lawyers Collective for 6 months was leaked to the Press even before it was formally communicated to them. Even earlier in November, 2015 media articles reported that Show Cause notices were issued to the Lawyers Collective for violation of FCRA even though no such Notice was received by the Lawyers Collective. Thus there is a pattern to the actions of the MHA by first launching a smear campaign tarnishing the image of Lawyers Collective even before an enquiry.
A plain reading of the alleged violations of FCRA by the Lawyers Collective do not reveal any evidence of financial fraud or defalcation having occurred. All the queries raised by the MHA appear to be technical in nature. It’s very clear that the MHA has launched a witch hunt against yet another NGO which has been consistently taking up in a principled manner issues of human rights violations in the State of Gujarat and accountability of the political leaders to excesses committed under their watch.
It is also pertinent to point out that Indira Jaisingh and Anand Grover have defended the cases of Priya Pillai of Greenpeace, Teesta Setalvad, Yakub Menon and Sanjiv Bhat, the former IPS officer from Gujarat. Anand Grover has also appeared in the case protesting the discharge of BJP National President Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin encounter case. The present action against the Lawyers Collective is calculated to create a climate of fear and intimidation in an attempt to silence anyone from challenging the present BJP Government.
Indira Jaising, Anand Grover and the Lawyers Collective team have for the last 4 decades stood for the rights of the most marginalised sections of society – from tribals to urban poor to rights of unorganised sector workers; from women to sexual minorities; from victims of communal violence to issues of HIV patients – they have been in the forefront of all major struggles to secure justice. Their contribution to the development of law and jurisprudence is unparalleled. Noteworthy is the role played by Indira Jaising and Lawyers Collective in the framing and implementation of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Harassment Acts. They have always enjoyed the fairest of reputations for their ethical and principled conduct inside and outside courts.
It is ironical that while there is a relentless plundering of national and natural resources by the corporates and unearthing of a regular stream of corporate scams exposing massive financial fraud and diversion of money to foreign lands, little or no action is being taken by the Central Government in this regard. In stark contrast, activists and NGOs fighting against the plundering and looting of national wealth and natural resources, environmental degradation and violation of rights of people are being targeted over frivolous charges. Lawyers Collective, Indira Jaisingh and Anand Grover are the latest victims to join the long list of people being targeted by the Central Government.
PUCL demands that the central government immediately drop the witch hunt against Indira Jaisingh, Anand Grover and the Lawyers Collective under the FCRA. We would like to remind the Central Government that such repressive actions meant to silence groups and suppress dissent not only destroys the democratic fabric of our society but also eventually damages the standing of India as a democratic country in the comity of nations of the world.