CBI raids Indira Jaising and Anand Grover's homes

CBI raids Indira Jaising and Anand Grover's homes

The CBI on Thursday conducted searches at the Mumbai and Delhi premises of senior lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, almost a month after registering a case against their NGO Lawyers Collective accusing it violating rules related to foreign funding.

The searches were conducted at five locations in the national capital and Mumbai, including the office and residence of Jaising and Grover.

While Opposition MPs wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the searches, Jaising said she and her husband were being "targeted" by the CBI due to their work in the field of human rights. "Mr Grover and I are being targeted for the human rights work that we have done over the years," Jaising told reporters.

The CBI had on June 13 registered a case against the Mumbai-based NGO and its president senior lawyer Anand Grover on charges of violating rules related to receiving money from abroad, almost 18 months after cancelling the licence of 'Lawyers Collective'.

"It was alleged in the complaint that during the year 2006 to 2014, the accused persons entered into a conspiracy in Mumbai, Delhi and other places with an intent to cheat the Government of India in the matter of misusing/diverting Foreign Contribution received in the Mumbai based NGO," the CBI said in a statement.

"It was further alleged that in pursuance of the said conspiracy, Foreign Contribution to the tune of Rs.32.39 crore was received in the account of the said NGO and the accused persons misutilised sizeable amount of the Foreign Contribution received in the account of the Mumbai based NGO and thereby violated the provisions of FERA 2010," it added.

The Lawyers Collective had denied any wrongdoing in connection with foreign funding.

The FIR was registered following a complaint by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) filed on May 15 seeking an investigations into the violations of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 as well as the "attempt, abetment and conspiracy" to circumvent the law. It also wanted the CBI to intimate other agencies like the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate if it comes to its notice about violations of Income Tax and money laundering laws.

The CBI FIR mentions Grover, the NGO, its unknown office-bearers and unknown officials as accused. It does not name former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) and Lawyers Collective member Jaising but allegations against her has found mention in the complaint, which was similar to the one in the show cause notice to the NGO earlier.

According to the FIR, the NGO, which has been registered for carrying out "social activities", has received foreign contribution of around Rs 32.39 crore between 2006-07 and 2014-15 before its licence was suspended and later cancelled in October 2016.

One of the allegations was that Jaising, while being ASG (2009 to 2014), had received Rs 96.60 lakh as remuneration from the foreign contributions received by Lawyers Collective, which also funded some of her foreign travels.

The ministry said the ASG is paid from the Consolidated Fund of India and that carries out “very sensitive and high-level work”, including giving advice to the government on legal issues and appearing in Supreme Court and High Courts on its behalf.

According to the MHA, she violated the FCRA by "not seeking clearances from the government for receiving foreign contributions in the form of remuneration from the organisation and accepting foreign hospitality while visiting a foreign country".

In its complaint, the MHA claimed that the on-site inspection of account books and records of Lawyers Collective conducted in January 2016 showed several violations like using funds for political activities (organising protests for HIV/AIDS Bill), advocacy of MPs and foreign travel and accommodation of Grover.

Besides, the MHA claimed the NGO organised a free-trade agreement rally and held "paid dharnas" on the HIV/AIDS Bill outside the Law Ministry. It said Rs 13.03 lakh were found to have been spent on air travel, boarding and lodging, local travel of trustees and various contractual employees for drafting the HIV AIDS Bill in violation of rules.

Providing further details, it also said, “an amount of Rs 88,978 was paid to Delhi Network of Positive People after entering into an agreement for the arrangement of up to 250 people Rs 200 per person (Rs 100 for conveyance and Rs 100 for food) to hold dharna for HIV/AIDS Bill outside Law Ministry. To hold paid dharnas by utilisation of foreign contribution is violation of FCRA 2010.” 

The utilisation of foreign funds for advocacy, indulging in lobbying with MPs and thereby, influencing the political process and parliamentary institutions is in clear violation of the "letter and spirit" of the Act, it said.