Yesterday, the CBI carried out searches in Delhi and Mumbai in connection with a case of alleged Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violation against the Lawyers Collective, its president Anand Grover and others. The official and residential premises of Grover’s wife and senior advocate, Indira Jaising, situated in Delhi’s Nizamuddin East were also searched by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
A case was registered last month on the Union Home Ministry’s complaint. The premier probe agency, CBI has also invoked the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 in this case. The provisions invoked relate to criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and cheating. Apart from this, the provision relating to criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act has also been invoked.
The Lawyers Collective which was earlier registered under FCRA had received more than Rs. 32 crore in foreign donations between 2006 and 2015. As per the FIR, when prima facie violations were noticed, the MHA got an on-site inspection done in January 2016 and sought an explanation from the organisation. However, not satisfied with the replies, the registration of LC was cancelled in November 2016.
The inspection report, which also forms a part of the FIR, lists 14 occasions of alleged violations. The alleged violations include participation in political activities, diversion or misuse of foreign contributions, and their use on air travels and other activities for draft legislation meetings, dharnas and advocacy with MPs. The FIR makes a serious allegation with respect to the draft legislation on HIV/AIDS Bill. It states, “Documents also reveal that funds were spent on media advocacy with 67 MPs in March and April 2010 and 99 MPs in August 2010”.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court had sought a response from the government on a PIL for an SIT probe into “deliberate inaction” and non-registration of FIR against senior advocates Indira Jaising, Anand Grover and the NGO Lawyers Collective. It must be noted that the Home Ministry through an order in 2016 had indicated towards fault with Indira Jaising for accepting remuneration of Rs 96.60 lakh from the NGO for her services at a time when she was functioning as Additional Solicitor General for the government between July 2009 and May 2014.
“It is really surprising, that how a senior law officer, such as an ASG can simultaneously be and for such a long period be on the rolls of a private entity, being paid (out of foreign contribution) for undisclosed purposes by the entity,” the order said. The order further read, “Ms, Indira Jaising, despite holding such a position (Additional Solicitor-general) not only accepted Rs. 96.60 lacs from the Corpus of foreign contribution but also travelled abroad from the same fund for and on behalf of the Association without any intimation to or approval under the provisions of FCRA, 2010.” The order had also said that the foreign funds were used to lobby with MPs and thereby influencing political processes and parliamentary institutions. Another violation cited by the MHA is the payment to foreigners for professional services and travelling expenses. The foreigners visited India on tourist visas to assist Anand Grover. The order said Rs 22.53 lakh was spent for Grover’s air travel.