India: authorities must stop harassment of Lawyers Collective and repeal Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act
July 13, 2019
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The ICJ today condemned the raids on 11 July by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the homes and offices of Anand Grover and Indira Jaising, two lawyers prominent for frequently challenging the Indian government’s failures to respect and promote the rights of all people in India.
Grover and Jaising are both Supreme Court lawyers and co-founders of the Lawyers Collective, a non-governmental organization.
These raids were reportedly conducted pursuant to CBI’s registration of criminal charges into alleged violations of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), a much criticized law frequently used to target human rights defenders and critics of the Indian government.
“This raid seems designed to harass and intimidate two tireless advocates of Constitutional and international rights in India,” said Sam Zarifi, Secretary-General of the ICJ.
“The Indian government must immediately cease harassment of the Lawyers Collective and its founders Anand Grover and Indira Jaising,” he added.
The CBI raids appears to be based on a 2016 Ministry of Home Affairs report, now under appeal in the Bombay High Court, and without any material change in circumstances since its release.
The raid has also been conducted notwithstanding a National Human Rights Commission statement seeking a status report from the CBI by 21 July 2019 to ensure that the investigation is “non-discriminatory and to avoid arbitrariness”.
The attack is emblematic of a broader pattern of official threats to and harassment of Indian civil society in general, and the Lawyers Collective in particular.
Lawyers Collective’s FCRA license was cancelled in November 2016, a decision that is under appeal in the Bombay High Court. The action relied upon overly broad and vague legal provisions of the FCRA that violate India’s legal obligation to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.
“The repeated use of the FCRA to target civil society including Lawyers Collective has had a devastating chilling effect on public comment about the government,” said Zarifi.
“The law should be repealed, or substantially amended to include safeguards against arbitrary use of its provisions, and to protect freedom of expression and association,” he added.
The ICJ supports the 2016 call by three United Nations Special Rapporteurs to the Indian Government to repeal FCRA, which decried the FCRA’s use to “silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government”.
First published in ICJ.
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