Friday, November 20, 2015

Greenpeace's sixth legal victory: Madras High Court "unconditionally" stays Tamil Nadu order canceling registration

Greenpeace andriod app to "battle" air pollution
By Our Representative
In a major relief to Greenpeace India, the Madras High Court has stayed a government order canceling the top environmental NGO’s registration. Staying the order, the High Court observed that the Tamil Nadu Registrar of Societies (RoS) did not follow principles of natural justice.
The NGO was represented in the High Court by senior advocate PS Raman, supported by Vineet Subramani. Raman, represented Greenpeace India Society pro bono (without fee), said that he was “happy” that the court had granted an “unconditional stay of the cancellation of registration.”
Welcoming the stay, Greenpeace said, “This is the sixth time in the last year and a half that Greenpeace and its activists have succeeded against multiple attempts to restrict its operations and funding, as well as to shut it down. The courts have consistently found to be in favour of Greenpeace India.”
“We were confident the courts would agree that Greenpeace is on sound legal footing and has done nothing wrong, notwithstanding the government’s ridiculous allegations of fraud in this instance. Our accounts are an open book and on our website for all to inspect,” said Priya Pillai of Greenpeace India.
“The MHA’s clumsy tactics, to suppress free speech and dissenting voices, are turning into a major national and international embarrassment for this government,” she added.
Greenpeace India Society early this month received a notice from the Tamil Nadu RoS, summarily announcing cancellation of its registration as a society. The cancellation of registration came at a time when several international leaders, including the United Nations Secretary-General, had insisted on upholding the importance of civil society in healthy democracies.
The Tamil Nadu move followed an order, issued on September 2, by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) cancelled the registration of Greenpeace India under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which meant that the NGO would not be able to receive any kind of foreign donations.
The MHA decision came in the wake of “prejudicially affecting the public interest and economic interest of the state which violated the conditions of grant of registration”, said sources.
Vinuta Gopal, interim co-Executive Director of Greenpeace India, described the state has part of the nationwide “crackdown on civil liberties”, adding, the cancellation of the organisation’s FCRA registration was the “government’s latest move in a relentless onslaught against the community’s right to dissent.”
On April 10, the government had suspended Greenpeace India’s licence to receive foreign donations, citing reasons such as “talks” with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), attempts to “delay and place illegal obstructions to India’s energy plans”, “campaigning, protesting and lobbying against government of India’s policies”, an anti-nuclear “full page colour advertisement in The Hindu with a sarcasm-laced header”.
Amidst the crackdown, the NGO worked towards “clean air, clean water and clean energy”, Greenpeace India statement said, adding, one of the important steps was to launch “a free android-based mobile application that alerts citizens to take precaution against dangerous levels of air pollution across the country.”
The NGO, during the period, interestingly, supported the government’s move to reduce greenhouse gas emission by about 35 per cent till 2030. More recently, it supported the campaign for protecting traditional forms of mustard against an imminent threat from genetically modified mustard.
Pillai said, “As a people powered organisation, instead of fighting and winning legal battles, we would much rather continue to contribute to solve India’s serious development challenges - air pollution, disappearing forests, the need for safe food and clean electricity for all.”

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