The Lawyers Collective, a human rights advocacy firm headed by lawyer
Indira Jaisingh, has issued a clarification on March 10 on issues
relating to allegations of violating the Foreign Contribution
(Regulation) Act, 2010.

Here is the full text of the statement.

  1. The Lawyers Collective (LC) expresses its anger and outrage at
    reports of alleged violations of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation)
    Act, 2010 (FCRA) made by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and
    circulated by sections of the press and denies the same.

  2. LC is a society and public trust registered under the law. LC was
    founded in 1981, “to protect the democratic rights of citizens
    guaranteed in the Constitution of India; to provide legal aid and
    advice; to convene seminars/discussions on legal issues and to
    campaign for law reforms, which will protect and extend the democratic
    and civil rights of the people.” Over the last 35 years, LC has been
    carrying on its activities within the constitutional and legal
    framework as well as in accordance with the aims and objects stated in
    its Memorandum of Association.

  3. The impact of LC’s work has been tremendous and is recognised the
    world over, whether in drafting and monitoring the implementation of
    the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 or in
    challenging discrimination against people living with HIV through
    cases like MX vs. ZY (Bombay High Court, 1997). LC’s legal team has
    been at the forefront of the battle against section 377, IPC that
    criminalises same-sex relations, the recognition of transgender
    identity and rights, as well as ensuring affordable medicines by
    preserving public health safeguards under section 3(d) the Patents
    Act, 1970, amongst others. LC has also worked extensively with various
    Government departments, both at the Centre and in the States on laws,
    policies and programmes that protect Fundamental Rights and advance
    the Directive Principles of State Policy, as enshrined in the Indian

  4. LC has been registered with the MHA for receiving foreign
    contribution since November 2000 and has been complying with the
    provisions of the FCRA through reporting, submission and maintenance
    of accounts.

  5. LC states that no notice under FCRA, whatsoever, has been issued to
    LC, either by MHA or any other Ministry. What it has received till
    date is a standard questionnaire dated 5th November, 2015, an
    intimation for inspection of accounts dated 12th January, 2016 and
    observations/findings of the inspection team dated 29th February,

  6. Nonetheless, sections of the press have been reporting that LC
    has been served “show cause” notice for violating the FCRA. These
    reports first appeared in November 2015 and continue to be published
    till date.

  7. In its reply dated 11th December 2015, the MHA itself clarified
    that “… no show cause notice as mentioned in your letter dated
    05.12.2015 has been issued to Lawyers Collective by this Ministry till
    date and this Ministry categorically denies its involvement and
    responsibility to the news item published.”

  8. LC has fully cooperated with the MHA in providing information
    sought and in having our books of accounts examined by the inspection
    team deputed under the FCRA. We are in the process of replying to the
    observations made by the inspection team, which are totally
    unsustainable, both in fact and law, within the stipulated period of
    30 days.

  9. While LC believes in the legal process, it appears that the
    authorities do not. Contrary to provisions under the FCRA that require
    information from audit/inspection to be kept confidential, certain
    officers at the MHA are going out of their way to leak observations of
    the inspection team, in order to create prejudice and hostility
    against the LC, even before the legal procedure for inquiry has

  10. In the last one year, the MHA has cancelled FCRA registration of
    over 15, 000 NGOs in the country. None of their accounts/details were
    made public, with the exception of Green Peace India and Sabrang Trust
    and Citizens for Justice and Peace and now, LC. This deliberate and
    selective disclosure, contrary to the law, speaks volumes about the
    real motive and intent behind the entire exercise.

  11. LC plainly refutes allegations of violations of FCRA and misuse of
    funds. The foreign contribution received by LC has been used only for
    the purposes for which the money was received and in line with FCRA
    and the Rules thereunder. Our accounts are available in the public
    domain and can be accessed by anyone who wishes to do so.

  12. The accusation of paying volunteers to hold dharnas is absolutely
    misconstrued and baseless. There is no bar in the FCRA on supporting
    community mobilization or dharnas, which are the very heart of a
    democratic society. Supporting people living with HIV with food and
    water, as they stand in the sun demanding protection of their rights
    is neither political nor illegal, as alleged. Nor is organizing and
    participating in conferences, which is one of the stated objectives of
    the organisation.

  13. It has been alleged that LC received foreign contribution during
    2009-2014 when its Trustee, Ms. Indira Jaising served as the
    Additional Solicitor General and that this amounts to a violation of
    FCRA. It is clarified that Ms. Jaising was not a “government servant
    or employee” as stipulated in section 3 of the FCRA. This is
    reconfirmed by the fact that the present Attorney General of India has
    sought and obtained permission to appear in the Supreme Court of India
    for private parties including the liquor lobby, which he could never
    have done if he was a government servant or employee as contemplated
    in law.

  14. LC states that it engages in sensitization and advocacy with
    stakeholders including Members of Parliament (“MPs”) on the need for
    protection of rights of people living with HIV and other vulnerable
    groups. Interacting with MPs to make them aware of people‟s needs and
    concerns is a perfectly legitimate and constitutional activity. It
    does not amount to “lobbying”. Section 3 of the FCRA prohibits a
    “member of any legislature” and “political party” from receiving
    foreign contribution. LC’s activities do not fall under any of those

  15. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a deliberate and
    sustained effort to target and vilify LC and its chief functionaries,
    who are known for their commitment to human rights and liberal values,
    in the eyes of the public. For over three decades, LC has taken up
    issues of human rights and justice that are often unpopular with, or
    disliked by the political establishment of the day. It is no
    coincidence that in recent times, the founding trustees of LC – Ms
    Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover, in the course of their
    professional duties as lawyers, have defended cases of Priya Pillai
    (Green Peace India), Teesta Setalvad and Yakub Memon that have caused
    discomfort to many in the current establishment. Ms. Jaising also
    recently represented Sanjiv Bhatt, the IPS officer from Gujarat
    demanding an independent investigation by SIT into false and frivolous
    FIRs lodged against him in the State of Gujarat. There is no doubt
    that attempts to hound and malign LC is part of the larger clampdown
    on civil society voices that seek to preserve and protect shrinking
    democratic spaces in India and zealously guard civil liberties
    including the right to dissent.

  16. While LC will assist and cooperate with the authorities in
    implementing the FCRA, it will resist and respond to any unfair and
    unlawful acts to malign the organisation and its functionaries, who
    remain committed to advancing justice through constitutional means.