Senior lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover Wednesday cried foul over a Supreme Court notice to them and their NGO, Lawyers Collective, on a plea alleging FCRA violation by them, and said they are "deeply disturbed by the turn of events".
They said they are being "victimised" as Ms Jaising took up the cause of a sacked woman employee of the top court who had levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi which were rejected by an In-House Inquiry Committee on May 6.
The notice was issued to them on a plea seeking investigation and lodging of FIR under various provisions of law for allegedly violating rules relating to receipt and utilisation of foreign funds.
Ms Jaising and Mr Grover, founders of Lawyers Collective, have been asked by a bench headed by the CJI to respond to a plea by an NGO, Lawyers Voice.
"It is obvious to us that this is victimisation on account of Ms Jaising taking up the issue of the procedure adopted in relation to the allegations of sexual harassment against the Chief Justice of India by a former employee of the Supreme Court which Ms Jaising has done so in her capacity as a concerned citizen, a senior member of the bar and a women''s rights advocate, without commenting on the merits of the allegations," Ms Jaising, Mr Grover and Lawyers Collective said in a press statement.
They said that since Ms Jaising, a former Additional Solicitor General, has been "publicly vocal" on the due process with regard to the conduct of the In-House Inquiry Committee headed by Justice S A Bobde, the CJI should have recused himself from hearing the matter.
"Considering that Ms Jaising has been publicly vocal on the issue of due process of law in relation to the conduct of the in-house inquiry, the Chief Justice ought to have recused himself from hearing the matter," the statement said.
They also said that the plea by Lawyers Voice was filed in the top court on May 6 and it came be listed before the CJI's court on Wednesday "contrary to the circulars and notifications" of the top court.
"We are deeply disturbed by the turn of events. It needs to be noted that the petition came to be filed on May 6, 2019. It appears from the record on the Supreme Court's website that the petition was filed on May 6 at 3.19 PM. There were a number of objections, which were removed on May 7," they said.
"It further appears that though the matter was not orally mentioned on May 7, it came to be listed in court number 1 on May 8, contrary to the circulars and notifications of the Supreme Court in respect of listing," the statement said.
"It has been brought to our knowledge that during the proceedings today, though the petitioner''s advocate did not orally seek any interim orders, the court has passed an order to the effect that the pendency of the petition will not come in the way of government agencies proceeding in the matter," the statement said.
They said it appeared from the oral submissions by the advocate appearing for the petitioner that the plea concerns the alleged ''mis-utilisation'' of foreign funding under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA).
The statement said that Lawyers Collective has no foreign funding since 2016 when its FCRA registration was suspended and later, cancelled by the Union Home Ministry.
"We wish to state that LC (Lawyers Collective) has no foreign funding since 2016, when its FCRA registration was suspended and subsequently cancelled by the Ministry of Home Affairs on false and illegal grounds. LC has taken up appropriate legal proceedings against the cancellation in accordance with law. In any event, we strongly dispute any allegation of mis-utilisation of any funds," the statement said.
"We will respond to the petition, as and when we served the same. We are seeking competent legal advice and our future course of action will be decided in due course," it said.