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Delhi HC seeks CBI response on activist Harsh Mander's plea to quash FIR for alleged FCRA violation

The CBI lodged the FIR in February against Mander and his Delhi-based NGO CES for alleged violation of various provisions of the FCRA after conducting a preliminary enquiry following a complaint by the Union Home Ministry.
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 09:26 IST
Last Updated : 22 April 2024, 09:26 IST

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday sought the CBI's response on a plea by human rights activist Harsh Mander and his NGO seeking quashing of an FIR lodged against them for alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

Justice Vikas Mahajan issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the petition and asked the agency, which orally assured the court that it was not going to arrest Mander as of now, to file its status report before the next date of hearing.

The High Court listed the matter for further hearing on August 29.

During the hearing, senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishna, appearing for former IAS officer Mander and his NGO Centre of Equity Studies (CES), urged the court to grant an interim relief of no coercive action against the petitioners.

Advocate Anupam Sharma representing the CBI said that no coercive action will be taken against the activist till the next date of hearing.

He said that till date the agency has not arrested him, and it was not going to arrest him as of now. He added that normally the CBI does not make an arrest in such cases.

The CBI lodged the FIR in February this year against Mander and his Delhi-based NGO CES for alleged violation of various provisions of the FCRA after conducting a preliminary enquiry following a complaint by the Union Home Ministry.

The searches were conducted at two locations in Delhi including Mander's official and residential premises, according to a CBI statement issued in February.

Mander is a former member of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council during the erstwhile UPA government.

The plea, filed through advocate Sarim Naved, said the FIR was registered after a six-month long preliminary enquiry without any cognisable offence on the part of the petitioner.

The petition claimed that the FIR is vague and seems to have been filed 'without any application of mind' to the ingredients of the penal provisions.

If the reliefs sought by the petitioners are not granted, further harassment and intimidation will continue for them but if they are granted, no harm could be caused to the agency, it said.

The CBI had registered a preliminary enquiry on April 13 last year on a complaint from the Home Ministry against the Centre for Equity Studies, Aman Biradari Trust, Oxfam India and Action Aid Association over alleged FCRA violations.

The enquiry revealed that the CES was established and registered as a trust with Mander as its chairman, the FIR said.

"It has been alleged that the NGO had transferred Rs 32.71 lakh other than salary/ wages/ remuneration, from its FCRA account into the account of individual(s) during 2020-21 in violation of the provisions of FCRA, 2010. It has also been alleged that the NGO had also diverted funds worth Rs 10 lakh from its FCRA account through the firm(s) in violation of the provisions of FCRA, 2010," the CBI statement had said.

The enquiry has revealed that through its chairman Mander, the CES diverted funds from FCRA accounts in alleged violations of the act, the FIR has alleged.

The Home Ministry had suspended CES' FCRA certification on June 14 last year for six months.

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Published 22 April 2024, 09:26 IST

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