A human rights forum has condemned the raids on the residences of leading Supreme Court lawyers Anand Grover and Indra Jaisingh by the CBI in Mumbai and New Delhi on Thursday as an attempt to “undermine the proceedings before the High Court of Bombay and National Human Rights Commission” initiated by these leading rights advocates.
In a two-page statement , Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA) ‘s national working secretary Henry Stephagne has said the CBI had made an early morning raid on the residences of these noted jurists, one month after registering an FIR against them “solely based on a 2016 report of the Ministry of Home Affairs” on sources of funding for the NGOs they were running.
He said conducting the raids when the Home Ministry’s report itself was under challenge before the Bombay High Court by the Lawyers Collective amounted to blatant misuse of the Central agency, he said.
The raids were aimed at intimidating them and other human rights defenders. They had been targeted because they were pursuing sensitive cases against Ministers and senior officials of the ruling BJP, he said.
On the filing of criminal charges against Anand Grover and functionaries of Lawyers Collective, Stephagne said the HRDA had approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on June 19. The NHRC on June 21, 2019 directed the CBI to “the present status of the investigation in the matter within 4 weeks”. Exactly after three weeks after this NHRC direction, the CBI conducted the raids.
The Home Ministry on May 15, 2019 asked the CBI to make “ further investigation as per law”. However, the CBI without any investigation, had filed criminal charges against Anand Grover and functionaries of Lawyers Collective on June 13, 2019 and followed this up with the raids on July 11.
The sequence of events speaks volumes of the mala fide intentions of government and the CBI’s directed raids “are only to restrict any NHRC intervention in this matter”.
He said Anand Grover was the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health between August 2008 and July 2014. Indira Jaising was an Additional Solicitor General of India between July 2009 and May 2014 and a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women between 2009 and 12.
“This is not an isolated event, rather a pattern reflecting the approach of the government towards non-governmental and civil society organisations, especially those who are critical of the government”,he charged.
He said that in 2016, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association, released an analysis of the FCRA clearly highlighting that “India’s Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA 2010) does not conform to international law and standards”. The analysis states that access to foreign funding is well within rights under international law. The Special Rapporteur urged the Indian government to approve accreditation to the organisations under FCRA whose licenses were revoked.