Saturday, June 04, 2016

Human rights lawyers Jaising, Grover being "punished" because they took up 2002 Gujarat riots cases

Indira Jaising
By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to Government of India decision to suspend top lawyer Indira Jaising-led NGO Lawyers’ Collective’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license to obtain funds from abroad to take up human rights cases in India, two well-known advocacy groups have said it is being “punished” for taking up the case of several human rights defenders of India.
In a statement, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) noted, Indira Jaising, along with her husband, Anand Grover, have “defended” in the Supreme court the cases of Priya Pillai of Greenpeace, Teesta Setalvad, Yakub Menon and Sanjiv Bhatt, former IPS officer from Gujarat”.
It further said, “Grover has also appeared in the case protesting the discharge of BJP National President Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin encounter case. The present action against the Lawyers Collective is calculated to create a climate of fear and intimidation in an attempt to silence anyone from challenging the present BJP Government.”
Anand Grover
Taking a similar line, Amnesty International said, “The lawyers have independently handled several important human rights cases, including representing activists seeking justice for the 2002 Gujarat violence and extrajudicial executions in the state.”
Amnesty added, “The FCRA has been used by successive governments as a political tool to suppress dissent and harass groups critical of government views and actions. In September 2015, the central government cancelled the FCRA registration of Greenpeace India and suspended the FCRA registration of an NGO run by activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand.”
Calling it a “persecution of senior advocates”, PUCL said, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is using “the coercive provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 in an arbitrary, biased and politically motivated manner.”
“The vindictiveness is evident from the fact that the order dated May 31, 2016 suspending the FCRA registration of Lawyers Collective for six months was leaked to the media even before it was formally communicated to either Jaising or Grover.
Teesta Setalvad, Sanjeev Bhatt, Priya Pillai
Earlier, in November 2015 Show Cause notices were reported to have been issued to the Lawyers Collective for “violation of FCRA”, even though no such Notice was received by the Lawyers Collective, PUCL said, adding, “Thus there is a pattern to the actions of the MHA.”
Amnesty said, the new foreign funding restrictions imposed on Lawyers Collective violate constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and association”, adding, “There is no doubt that the government is being vindictive.”
“Lawyers Collective is being targeted because its office-bearers have taken on the government in a range of cases. The FCRA allegations are clearly a pretext to silence these dissenting voices,” said Aakar Patel, executive director, Amnesty International India.
Amnesty recalled that in April 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association “reiterated that the ability to access foreign funding is an integral part of the right to freedom of association, and said that the FCRA restrictions were not in conformity with international law, principles and standards.”
“The FCRA provides a convenient cover for the government to go after NGOs it does not like,” said Aakar Patel, adding, “NGOs can of course be required to be transparent and accountable about their activities and sources of funding. But laws like the FCRA should not be used to obstruct organizations from receiving foreign funding for legitimate work.”

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