NHRC calls for the status of the investigation by the CBI into the criminal cases filed against the members of human rights organization- “Lawyers Collective” (21.06.2019)

New Delhi, 21st June, 2019

The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India has “received a communication from Shri Henri Tiphagne, a human rights activist associated with Human Rights Defenders’ Alert, HRDA-India expressing grave concern over filing criminal cases by the CBI on 13.06.2019, against human rights organization “Lawyers Collective, senior Advocate Anand Grover and its other unnamed functionaries. It is mentioned that the FIR has been filed by the CBI on 13.06.2019, under various sections of the IPC, Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) and Prevention of Corruption Act (PC) 1988. The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi has reportedly written to the CBI on 15.05.2019 for further investigation.

The complainant has stated that the Lawyers Collective is a group of lawyers with a mission to empower and change the status of marginalized groups through the effective use of law and engagement in human rights advocacy, legal aid and litigation. It is also mentioned that Shri Anand Grover was the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Health between August 2008- July 2014 and Ms. Indira Jaising was an Addl. Solicitor General of India between July 2009- May 2014 and a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women between 2009-2012. It is also stated that registration of criminal cases by the CBI against this organization is a step to intimidate and harass them for their human rights work.

The HRDA has requested the Commission to exercise the provisions laid down u/s 12 (b) of the PHR Act, 1993 and act on its long standing request of urgently reviewing FCRA.

The Commission has also received a similar complaint from Ms. Maja Daruwala, Senior Advisor of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, expressing concern on Ms. Jaisingh that she and her husband are being victimized for the work that they have done in Court of Law in their capacity as lawyers. She also stated that a pattern of intimidation is going on against anyone who challenges Government policies. To substantiate her concerns, Ms. Daruwala referred Ms. Jaisingh about the timing of allegations made against her and her husband. She also stated that Ms. Jaising and Mr. Grover are long standing, reputed lawyers and Human Rights Defenders of high integrity, reputed both at home and abroad.

The Commission has carefully examined the contents of both the communications. The Commission while considering earlier communications received from various human rights defenders, have made it clear that the matter related to alleged violation of norms of FCRA and suspension of the organization by the Government of India due to alleged violation of norms is a subject which is outside purview of the Commission. However, with regard to submission made by Shri Henri Tiphagne and Ms. Maja Daruwala that filing of criminal charges against their organization is solely based on a report of the Ministry of Home Affairs pertaining to the year January, 2016 and there has been no change in circumstances or material on record since 2016 and hence, it has no material basis for invoking provisions of the IPC and other acts is definitely a subject matter of investigation by the investigating agency, but the Commission is also empowered under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 to examine the issue to make it non-discriminatory and to avoid arbitrariness. Shri Henri Tiphagne has also stated that the MHA’s communication to the CBI and registration of the FIR has been after a petition was filed by an NGO, “Lawyers Voice” in the Supreme Court on 08.05.2019 where Supreme Court has issued the notice. Ms. Maja Daruwala has also noted that Ms. Jaisingh is known world over for her work on women’s rights, civil liberties and high standards of bar and bench in court proceedings.

Taking into consideration that Shri Anand Grover and Ms. Indira Jaising have been actively raising the issues pertaining to alleged violation of human rights across the country and looking into their active role in the civil society, the Commission finds it appropriate to forward copies of the complaints lodged by Shri Henri Tiphagne and Ms. Maja Daruwala to the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi calling for present status of the investigation in the matter within 4 weeks.”