New Delhi: Interim protection from coercive steps is equivalent to anticipatory bail, which is completely unsustainable and bad in law, said the CBI challenging the Bombay High Court order restraining the agency from taking action against NGO Lawyers Collective and its founding members, senior lawyers Anand Grover and Indira Jaising.
The CBI, which registered a case against Grover and the NGO over alleged violations of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, has moved the Supreme Court against the High Court order. It contended the high court neither rendered any finding as to how the FIR registered against the accused is unsustainable and bad in law. "Nor the High Court has rendered any finding as to how the continuance of the investigation against the accused would be contrary to law," said the CBI in its plea.
According to the agency, the High Court on the above two points - the FIR against the accused and continuity in the investigations - did not render any findings, but instead passed the interim order on a "completely untenable reason" that the FIR is based on the inspection of the 2016 report and there is no fresh material. As a result, the order of no coercive step was warranted.
The CBI contended, in its plea, that "when the allegations in the FIR otherwise manifested commissioning of a cognizable offence, the said ground of no new fresh material was completely impertinent and extraneous for exercise of powers under Section 482 (of the) CrPC".
It cited the 2015 letter issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs to the accused, stating its FCRA Wing was mandated to administer FCRA to bring transparency and accountability while ensuring national security. In 2016, the Ministry conducted inspection of books of accounts and records, which revealed the alleged accused, had indulged in prima facie violation of FCRA provisions.
In May 2016, the FCRA permission of the NGO was suspended. A FIR was lodged in June 2019, following a complaint by the Ministry. Although, the FIR did not name Jaising as an accused, but the Ministry complaint mentioned her name and made specific allegations against her.
Grover and Jaising moved the high court in July urging it to quash the FIR against them and the NGO. According to the CBI, the NGO allegedly failed to disclose a major part the foreign funds it received between 2009 and 2015. It was alleged that they used funds for personal benefits.
The CBI said, as per the Home Ministry complaint, Jaising, during her tenure as Additional Solicitor General, allegedly drew remuneration from the NGO.
The FCRA cancellation order was challenged by the NGO in 2017 in the High Court, and it is pending before a single judge.