The Supreme Court, on Thursday (November 14) sought response from NGO Lawyers Collective and its founding members Anand Grover and Indira Jaising on a plea filed by the CBI challenging the Bombay High Court order.
The high court order granted protection from coercive action against them in an alleged FCRA violation case.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari issued notice to the senior lawyers and the NGO.
The top court also refused to stay the Bombay High Court order. The CBI had registered a case against Grover and the NGO over alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) in the use of foreign funds received by Lawyers Collective.
The probe agency contended that the high Court had neither rendered any finding as to how the FIR registered against the accused parties was “unsustainable and bad in law” nor referred to any finding as to how the continuance of the investigation against the accused would be contrary to law.
Grover and his wife had approached the high court in July seeking that the FIR be registered by the CBI against the NGO and them be quashed in June.
The CBI registered the FIR following a complaint by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in May alleging violation of FCRA provisions. While the FIR did not name Jaising as an accused, the MHA complaint, who is part of the FIR, mentioned her name and made specific allegations against her.
The CBI alleged that the NGO received foreign funds between 2009 and 2015, but failed to disclose a major part of it. It said that Grover and Jaising used foreign funds for “personal benefits”.
According to the MHA complaint, during her tenure as Additional Solicitor General, Jaising continued to draw remuneration from the NGO, adding that this came from foreign contributions received, the CBI said.
The petitioners also pointed out that the MHA complaint was based on an inspection report from 2016 that had pointed out a single violation of non-disclosure under the FCRA.
At the time, following the inspection report, the MHA had issued an order cancelling the registration of Lawyers Collective for receiving foreign funds.
The petitioners said that the cancellation order was challenged in the high court by the NGO in 2017, and it is currently pending before a single judge.
While granting interim relief, the division bench took note of the petitioners’ submission that the CBI’s act of filing an FIR on the basis of a two-and-a-half-year-old report, when the matter had reached the court, was questionable.