We, the undersigned individuals strongly Condemn the raids at the homes and offices of senior advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover this morning by the CBI. The raids are being carried out in both Delhi and Mumbai. This, latest in a long line of coercion and intimidation of Ms Jaising and Mr Grover, is nothing short of a brute show of intimidation as well as gross abuse of power.
This is especially so since both advocates, iowell known for their pioneering work in the field of human tights and their NGO, “Lawyers Collective” have fully cooperated with the authorities ever since criminal charges were filed against them in alleged FCRA violation cases. Despite this show of cooperation, the raids that have taken place today are shocking.
The filing of criminal charges against Indian NGO ‘Lawyers Collective’, its President, Senior Advocate Mr. Anand Grover, and other representatives. Criminal charges were filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on June 13, 2019, relying on an investigation report of January 2016 of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Lawyers Collective, a human rights organisation based in New Delhi with its registered office in Mumbai, was founded by noted Indian human rights defenders and lawyers Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover. Ms. Jaising and Mr. Grover are senior advocates with an exceptional profile of public service, probity and personal and professional integrity as lawyers and as human rights defenders.
In 1986, Ms. Jaising became the first woman to be designated as a Senior Advocate by the High Court of Bombay and in 2009 she became the first woman to be appointed as an Additional Solicitor General of India. Ms. Jaisingh has been a member of the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) between 2009 and 2012. She has been a recipient of the Padma Shree (a prestigious civilian award given by the Indian government in recognition of a distinguished contribution to Indian life) in 2005 followed by the Rotary Manav Seva Award for her services to the nation.
Mr. Grover held the mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health between 2008 and 2014. The country’s HIV/AIDS treatment programme has evolved with the serious efforts of the HIV/AIFS Unit of Lawyers Collective, headed by Mr. Grover.
Ms. Jaising and Mr. Grover, through Lawyers Collective, have advocated for advancing the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of Indian society, including children. At several occasions, they have never hesitated to challenge the unconstitutional and anti-
people actions and policies of the State through judicial processes. The famous Githa Hariharan case is one such example among many others that we as child rights groups can immediately think of. The case led to recognition of the rights of Hindu mothers to be the natural guardians of their minor children during the lifetime of the father, and thus allowing children to access their rights using their mother’s name without hindrance. When the law against child labour was weak and silent on rehabilitation of children rescued from labour, in the landmark MC Mehta vs. State of Tamil Nadu case, Ms. Jaisingh assisted the Supreme Court as part of the court appointed Committee to lay down a clear set of directions for the labour department and other authorities for rehabilitation of children and for ensuring compliance with the law. Lawyers Collective’s report on female genital mutilation, their contribution to the evolution of a victim compensation scheme for women survivors of sexual assault and other crimes, the fight for the rights of the third gender, all have contributed to the protection and welfare of children too. The list in endless and is known to all.
Unfortunately, the Government of India has chosen to use the state machinery and its various tools against people and organisations whose contribution to upholding the constitutional values and the rule of law is well-acknowledged and recognised. The crackdown is a gross violation of India’s national as well as international commitment to human rights and social justice.
The reprisal against Lawyers Collective began in 2016 by suspending their FCRA license, which was then challenged in the High Court of Bombay. Lawyers Collective’s challenge to the FCRA cancellation and non-renewal are currently pending before the High Court. On June 13, 2019, the CBI registered a First Information Report under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relating to charges of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating, false statement made in declaration and various sections under the FCRA and Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act 1988. Filing of criminal charges while the matter is under consideration by the High Court is a blatant misuse of its agencies by the Indian Government to target critical human rights work undertaken by Lawyers Collective and its representatives, often involving sensitive cases against Indian ministers and senior officials of the ruling political party.
Such actions by the Indian Government are contrary to its pledge at the UN Human Rights Council and its obligations and commitments under several international human rights treaties and declarations as well as values enshrined in the Constitution of India. In 2016, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Assembly and Association, Mr. Maina Kiai concluded that certain provisions of FCRA were not in conformity with international human rights law and noted that “access to resources, including foreign funding, is a fundamental part of the right to freedom of association under international law, standards, and principles, and more particularly part of forming an association”. Mr. Kiai further called upon the Govt. of India to repeal the regressive FCRA, which was being used to “silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the
We, as citizens strongly urge:
• Such acts of intimidation like the raids must stop immediately
The criminal charges against Lawyers Collective be immediately withdrawn pending the decision of the High Court of Bombay.
• Misuse of the country’s laws and the state machinery against human rights defenders be ceased.
• All acts of harassment against Mr. Anand Grover, Ms. Indira Jaising and other Officer bearers of Lawyers Collective as well as against all human rights defenders in India be put to an end.
• Human Rights Defenders in the country should be able to carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance.
• The National Human Rights Commission of India to take cognizance of this matter and take immediate actions under the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 (PHRA), including a review of the FCRA under Section 12 (d) of the PHRA.