India: Harassment against Ms. Indira Jaising, Mr. Anand Grover and Lawyers Collective NGO

16/05/2019
Urgent Appeal

IND 004 / 0519 / OBS 043
Harassment
India
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.

Background information:

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.

These allegations include the following violations of FCRA regulations: a) remunerations paid by Lawyers Collective to Ms. Jaising for services provided by her while she was also serving as a government servant (as the Additional Solicitor General of India); b) the reimbursement of expenses for telephone and internet incurred by Mr. Grover while he was serving as the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health; c) and that Lawyers Collective used funds it had received through the FCRA to organise dharnas [1] and rallies. Lawyers Collective has denied all the aforementioned allegations.

In January 2017, the Bombay High Court passed an interim order unfreezing the domestic and non-FCRA bank accounts of Lawyers Collective. The Court ruled that while the Government of India had powers under the FCRA to “regulate or, even prevent the acceptance of foreign funds by an association, the Act did not provide for a government to stifle the very functioning of individuals or associations."

Actions requested:  
 
Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:

i. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Lawyers Collective, Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover, as well as of all human rights defenders in India and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;

ii. Take steps to repeal or comprehensively amend the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, in line with the legal analysis of the former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association;

iii. Conform in all circumstances to the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2.;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights instruments ratified by India.
 
Addresses:
 
Mr. Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in
Mr. Rajnath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in
Mr. Rajiv Gauba, Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs of India, Email: hshso@nic.in
Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: chairnhrc@nic.in
Mr. Khaleel Ahmad, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in
H.E. Mr. Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int
H.E. Mr. Manjeev Singh Puri, Embassy of India to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of India in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in India.
 
***
Geneva-Paris, May 15, 2019
 
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
 
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OAnand GroverMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
 
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
Tel and fax FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] A form of peaceful demonstration, consisting in sitting and fasting at the doorstep of an offender until death or the demand is granted.

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