CBI files case against Indira Jaising’s NGO Lawyers Collective for foreign funds irregularities; Funds misutilised for "activities against the nation"?
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has alleged that Jaising, as the ASG from 2009 to 2014, had received remunerations worth Rs 96.60 lakh from the foreign contributions received by Lawyers Collective
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked lawyer Anand Grover and his Mumbai-based voluntary organisation, Lawyers Collective, for violating Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), the rules in receiving foreign aid, reported the PTI.
The agency has filed an FIR based on a complaint from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which has alleged ‘several discrepancies in the utilisation of foreign aid received by the NGO’.
The CBI has booked Grover, the president of Lawyers Collective, and unidentified office-bearers and officials of the organisation.
Although the CBI has not named Grover's wife and lawyer Indira Jaising as an accused in the FIR, the complaint filed by the ministry, which is now part of the FIR, mentions allegations against her, reported the PTI.
The ministry has alleged that Jaising, as the ASG from 2009 to 2014, had received remunerations worth Rs 96.60 lakh from the foreign contributions received by Lawyers Collective. It has also stated that her foreign travels as ASG were funded by Lawyers Collective, using such contributions, without prior approval of the ministry.
The ministry has said the ASG is paid by the government from the Consolidated Fund of India and carries out very sensitive and high-level work, including, inter-alia, giving advice to the government in legal matters, appearing in the Supreme Court and high courts on its behalf and representing it in any reference made by the president to the apex court.
It has alleged that Jaising violated the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) by "not seeking clearances from the government for receiving foreign contributions in the form of remuneration from the organisation and accepting foreign hospitality while visiting a foreign country".
According to the ministry's complaint, Lawyers Collective had allegedly received foreign aid worth over Rs 32.39 crore between 2006-07 and 2014-15, wherein irregularities were committed that amounted to violation of the FCRA, 2010.
Based on available information and scrutiny of records of the NGO available with the MHA, prima facie violations of various provisions of the FCRA, 2010 were noticed, the ministry said.
It added that on-site inspection of books of accounts and records of the NGO was conducted from 19th to 23rd January, 2016.
The ministry has claimed that comments were sought from the NGO on the basis of the violations reported during the inspection, but the response was not found to be satisfactory, following which its FCRA registration was suspended and a show-cause notice issued.
Recently, a PIL was filed by Lawyers Voice, a voluntary organisation of advocates, in the Supreme Court, alleging that the funds collected by Lawyers Collective were misutilised for "activities against the nation".
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta had issued notice to Jaising, Grover and the MHA, asking them to file their responses on the allegations, including that the money received by Lawyers Collective was used to "influence political activities".
Jaising, Grover and Lawyers Collective had issued a press statement, disputing "any allegation of misutilisation of any funds".
According to the PTI report, the MHA has alleged that the funds received through foreign contributions were spent on media advocacy with 67 MPs in March and April, 2010 and with 99 MPs in August, 2010 for the drafting of the HIV/AIDS Bill by Lawyers Collective.
"As per the FC (foreign contribution) return filed, there was no mention of the fact that FC was used for advocacy, including advocacy with MPs or media, to draft a legislation or to organise rallies and dharnas. Hence, by spending on these activities, the association has violated section 8 of FCRA, 2010," it has alleged.
Foreign contributions worth Rs 2.94 crore were received by Lawyers Collective for women empowerment, while an amount of Rs 12.5 crore was received by the NGO for HIV-AIDS awareness programmes, which were not the purposes listed as its objective, the ministry has alleged.
(With inputs from PTI)