India: Harassment and restrictions to freedom of association of Indira Jaising and Anand Grover

08/06/2016
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the harassment and restrictions to freedom of association of Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover, lawyers and founders of the Indian NGO Lawyers Collective (LC). Both Ms. Jaising and Mr. Grover are internationally renowned human right professionals who have been engaging with the United Nations (UN) system, Ms. Jaising being appointed as former member of the UN Committee against Every form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Mr. Grover as former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health. LC is a prominent public interest service provider in Indiawith an established record of setting high standards in human rights advocacy, legal aid and litigation.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.

Description of the situation:

According to the information received, on June 3, 2016, the Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of LC. In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs leaked the suspension notice to the press before LC received a copy of it. This suspension of the FCRA’s registration is based on the allegations that LC, in particular Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover, violated the FCRA regulations.

These allegations include as violations of the FCRA regulations: a) the remunerations paid by LC 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 LC has used funds it has received through the FCRA to organise dharnas[1] and rallies. Lawyers Collective has denied all the aforementioned allegations.

The Observatory fears that this harassment against LC, Ms. Jaising and Mr. Grover is a consequence of their human rights work as legal representatives within the framework of some specific cases, such as the legal challenge of the discharge of Mr. Amit Shah (the BJP National President)[2], the representation of Ms. Priya Pillai, who criticised the Central Government’s actions[3], as well as the representation of Mr. Yakub Memon, who challenged his death sentence before the Supreme Court.

The Observatory expresses its deepest concern for the harassment and restriction to freedom
of association and access to funding suffered by LC, and calls upon the Indian authorities to
immediately and unconditionally lift the suspension of LC’s registration, in order to allow such prominent organisation to carry out its legitimate human rights work.

Actions Requested:

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

i. Lift immediately and unconditionally the suspension of Lawyers Collective’s registration, as it only seems to be aimed at sanctioning its legitimate human rights activities;

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

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:
- Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”; and
- Article 12.2, which provides that “"the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”; and

iv. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by India.

Addresses:

· Mr. Shri Nanredra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Prime Minister’s Office, Room number 152, South Block, New Delhi, India. Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in
· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, 104-107 North Block, New Delhi 110 001 India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in
· Justice Rajendra Mal Lodha, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, Tilak Marg, New Delhi -1, India. Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in
· Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Manav Adhikar Bhawan Block-C, GPO Complex, INA, New Delhi - 110023, India. Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: covdnhrc@nic.in; ionhrc@nic.in
· Mr. A. K. Parashar, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission, Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi 110 001, India. Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in
· H.E. Mr. Dilip Sinha, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations (Geneva), Rue du Valais 9, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of India in Brussels, 217 Chaussée de Vleurgat, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India in your respective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, June 8, 2016

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an OMCT and FIDH venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.


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

[2] Mr. Amit Shah was an accused in a case known as the « fake encounter case ». This case is associated with the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati in Gujarat.

[3] Ms. Pillai is a Greenpeace activist who was stopped at the Delhi airport from boarding a flight to London where she was planning to attend a conference on land rights violations criticisingGovernment’s policies on allowing corporations to acquire and mine lands belonging to farmers and othersin the Manhan Coal place area of the Indian state, Madhya Pradesh.

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