IND 004 / 0519 / OBS 043
May 16, 2019
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.
Brief description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about new acts of harassment against Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover, human rights lawyers and founders of the Indian NGO Lawyers Collective. Both Ms. Jaising and Mr. Grover are internationally renowned human right professionals who have a long history of engaging with the United Nations (UN) system. Ms. Jaising is a former member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Mr. Grover is a former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. Lawyers Collective is a prominent public interest service provider in India with an established record of setting high standards in human rights advocacy, legal aid and litigation.
According to the information received, on May 8, 2019, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi issued a notice in a petition filed on May 6 by an organisation called ‘Lawyers Voice.’ The petition demanded that the Government of India initiate criminal proceedings against Lawyers Collective, Ms. Jaising, and Mr. Grover for the alleged misuse of foreign funding under the 2010 Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
The bench issued the notice despite the fact that the petition did not provide any supporting information. The Observatory further recalls that Lawyers Collective’s FCRA was suspended and subsequently cancelled in 2016 – a measure that is being challenged by Lawyers Collective before the Bombay High Court (see background information).
Ms. Jaising recently expressed strong criticism regarding the handling of proceedings in a case that involves allegations of sexual harassment against CJI Ranjan Gogoi by a former Supreme Court employee.
The Observatory expresses its deepest concern for the harassment against Lawyers Collective, Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover and condemns the use of FCRA to impede legitimate activities of human rights organisations.
The Observatory calls upon the Indian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them and to amend FRCA in a manner that is consistent with international standards of freedom of association, including Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On June 3, 2016, the Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the FCRA registration of Lawyers Collective. In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs leaked the suspension notice to the press before Lawyers Collective received a copy of it. This suspension of the FCRA registration was based on allegations that Lawyers Collective, in particular Ms. Jaising and Mr. Grover, violated FCRA regulations.