LGBTIQ citizens and groups urge Centre to stop harassing Indira Jaising’s NGO Lawyers Collective

A group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer citizens, groups and organisations have written an open letter criticising the government’s decision to prosecute non-governmental organisation Lawyers Collective for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. It asked the Centre to stop harassing the organisation.

The Labia Collective, a Mumbai-based queer feminist group, uploaded the statement online and urged people to sign it in support. Those who signed the statement said the Lawyers Collective has been “a torchbearer in terms of the law, policy and judicial practice in the furtherance of constitutionalism and fundamental rights, especially of the most marginalised amongst us” for close to 40 years.

The CBI’s first information report, which was registered on June 18, named senior advocate Anand Grover, who is a director and trustee of the organization, and unidentified office-bearers and functionaries of the NGO. Senior lawyer Indira Jaising, who is married to Grover, is a trustee and secretary. The FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which has alleged discrepancies in Lawyers Collective’s utilization of foreign aid.

The FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which had alleged discrepancies in the utilisation of foreign aid received by Lawyers Collective.

The Lawyers Collective had expressed “shock and outrage” at the action and said that the case was solely based on proceedings by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2016, which the organisation had already challenged before the Bombay High Court. That appeal is pending and the court had noted in its interim orders that the ministry’s allegations were vague, the organisation said. The organisation said the FIR has “no basis in fact and in law” and has been filed to target and silence its office bearers for the cases they have taken up in the past.

The ministry has said Jaising received remunerations worth Rs 96.6 lakh from foreign contributions made to the organisation during her tenure as the additional solicitor general from 2009 to 2014. The ministry alleged that Jaising had violated the FCRA by “not seeking clearances from the government for receiving foreign contributions in the form of remuneration from the organisation and accepting foreign hospitality while visiting a foreign country”. However, Jaising has not been named as an accused.

Lawyers Collective has been filed to target and silence its office bearers for the cases they have taken up in the past. In May, Jaising and Grover had alleged they were being victimised and penalised for speaking up against the procedure followed by the Supreme Court’s in-house committee that cleared Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment charges.

The LGBTIQ citizens and groups called on the Centre to cease the harassment of Lawyers Collective and other human rights defenders, and urged it to withdraw the case against them. “We call upon all Queer groups and LGBTIQ+ individuals to step up in support of Lawyers Collective in this moment of precariousness and ensure that the current dispensation recognises that they are not standing alone. Let us make our voices heard loud and clear,” it added.

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