Indira Jaising, former Additional Solicitor General of India and senior counsel (Source: Twitter)

Senior Lawyers Indira Jaising, Anand Grover Claim Victimisation Over Supreme Court Notice

Senior lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover cried foul saying they were “deeply disturbed by the turn of events” over a Supreme Court notice to them and their NGO, Lawyers Collective, on a plea that alleged FCRA violation by them.

They said they are being “victimised” as Jaising had spoken against an in-house panel’s inquiry that found “no substance” in a former Supreme Court employee’s sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. The notice was issued to them on a plea seeking investigation and lodging of FIR under various provisions of law for allegedly violating rules relating to receipt and utilisation of foreign funds.

Jaising and Grover, founders of Lawyers Collective, have been asked by a bench headed by the Chief Justice to respond to a plea by another non-profit organisation, Lawyers Voice.

"It is obvious to us that this is victimisation on account of Ms Jaising taking up the issue of the procedure adopted in relation to the allegations of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice of India by a former employee of the Supreme Court which Ms Jaising has done so in her capacity as a concerned citizen, a senior member of the bar and a women's rights advocate, without commenting on the merits of the allegations," Jaising, Grover and Lawyers Collective said in a press statement.

They said that since Jaising, a former Additional Solicitor General, has been "publicly vocal" on the due process with regard to the conduct of the in-house inquiry committee headed by Justice SA Bobde, the Chief Justice should have recused himself from hearing the matter”, the statement said.

They also said that the plea by Lawyers Voice was filed in the apex court on May 6 and it came be listed before the Chief Justice’s court on Wednesday "contrary to the circulars and notifications" of the top court.

“We are deeply disturbed by the turn of events. It needs to be noted that the petition came to be filed on May 6, 2019. It appears from the record on the Supreme Court’s website that the petition was filed on May 6 at 3.19 p.m. There were a number of objections, which were removed on May 7,” they said in a statement. “It further appears that though the matter was not orally mentioned on May 7, it came to be listed in court number 1 on May 8, contrary to the circulars and notifications of the Supreme Court in respect of listing.”

It has been brought to our knowledge that during the proceedings today, though the petitioner’s advocate did not orally seek any interim orders, the court has passed an order to the effect that the pendency of the petition will not come in the way of government agencies proceeding in the matter
Lawyers Collective Statement On May 8

They said it appeared from the oral submissions by the advocate appearing for the petitioner that the plea concerns the alleged ‘mis-utilisation’ of foreign funding under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010.

The statement said that Lawyers Collective has no foreign funding since 2016 when its FCRA registration was suspended and later, cancelled by the Union Home Ministry.

“We wish to state that LC (Lawyers Collective) has no foreign funding since 2016, when its FCRA registration was suspended and subsequently cancelled by the Ministry of Home Affairs on false and illegal grounds,” the statement said. “LC (Lawyers Collective) has taken up appropriate legal proceedings against the cancellation in accordance with law. In any event, we strongly dispute any allegation of mis-utilisation of any funds.”

We will respond to the petition, as and when we served the same. We are seeking competent legal advice and our future course of action will be decided in due course.
Lawyers Collective Statement

The petition on which the advocates were issued notices by the Supreme Court was based on the 2016 orders of the centre by which the NGO’s licence was suspended and later cancelled for alleged FCRA violation.

The two orders — of May 31 and Nov. 27, 2016 — were passed by the competent authority in the Ministry of Home Affairs on a complaint filed in 2015 accusing Jaising and the NGO of mis-utilising the funds received under FCRA. Licence of the NGO was cancelled permanently by the government for alleged violation of FCRA in November 2016 and Jaising had then termed the centre’s action as “preposterous”.

The Home Ministry had taken cognisance of a letter written by one Jaipur resident Raj Kumar Sharma who in August 2015 had sought inquiry against Lawyers Collective for receiving huge sums as donations from foreign donors like Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundation of George Soros.

The letter had claimed that Lawyers Collective received Rs 28.5 crore foreign donation since 2006, in which Rs 7.2 crore was received from Ford Foundation USA, Rs.4.1 crore was from a highly controversial regime changing organisation.

It had stated that the data collected through Right To Information query shows that Lawyers Collective started receiving money from organisations like Levi Strauss Foundation and Foundation Open Society Institute, Switzerland after Jaising in 2008-09 became Additional Solicitor General of India.