The Supreme Court on Thursday sought response from NGO Lawyers Collective and its founding members Anand Grover and Indira Jaising on a plea by the CBI challenging the Bombay High Court order granting protection from coercive action against them in an alleged Foreign Contribution Act violation case.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari issued notice to the senior lawyers and the NGO. The top court also refused to stay the Bombay High Court order.
The CBI had registered a case against Grover and the NGO over alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) in the use of foreign funds received by Lawyers Collective.
The probe agency contended that the high Court had neither rendered any finding as to how the First Information Report or FIR registered against the accused parties was “unsustainable and bad in law” nor referred to any finding as to how the continuance of the investigation against the accused would be contrary to law.
Grover and Indira Jaising had approached the high court in July seeking the FIR registered by the CBI against the NGO and them in June be set aside. The CBI registered the FIR following a complaint by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in May alleging violation of FCRA provisions.
While the FIR did not name Indira Jaising as an accused, the MHA complaint, which is part of the FIR, mentioned her name and made specific allegations against her. The CBI alleged that the NGO received foreign funds between 2009 and 2015, but failed to disclose a major part of it. It said that Grover and Jaising used foreign funds for “personal benefits.”
According to the MHA complaint, during her tenure as Additional Solicitor General, Indira Jaising continued to draw remuneration from the NGO, the CBI said, adding that this came from foreign contributions received.
The petitioners also pointed out that the MHA complaint was based on an inspection report from 2016 that had pointed out a single violation of non-disclosure under the FCRA. At the time, following the inspection report, the MHA had issued an order cancelling the registration of Lawyers Collective for receiving foreign funds.
This cancellation order was challenged in the high court by the NGO in 2017, and is currently pending before a single judge, the petitioners said. While granting interim relief, the division bench took note of the petitioners’ submission that the CBI’s act of filing an FIR on the basis of a two-and-a-half-year-old report, when the matter had reached the court, was questionable.