New Delhi: Noted lawyer Indira Jaising's NGO 'Lawyers' Collective' has been barred from receiving foreign funds for six months and its license has been suspended by the Home Ministry for alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act or FCRA.
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Ms Jaising, who was an Additional Solicitor General in the previous Congress-led UPA government, has called the government order an act of "vindictiveness" and "nothing but an attempt to intimidate".
"Those who question the government's policies are targeted. It is a pattern," she said to NDTV on Thursday morning.
Lawyers' Collective has said in a statement that it will challenge the order, which it linked to Ms Jaising and her husband Anand Grover representing various people against BJP president Amit Shah and others in the party and government in court cases. "This is nothing but gross misuse of FCRA which is being used to suppress dissent," the NGO said.
Dismissing the allegations, the BJP's GVL Narsimha Rao said, "having Congress backing does not give anyone the licence to violate government norms."
In its notice to Lawyers' Collective, the Home Ministry says it has found discrepancies in the filing of annual returns by the NGO, which received foreign funds between 2006 and 2007 and 2013 and 2014, and has asked it to reply within 30 days.
The ministry has questioned Ms Jaising being paid remuneration "for undisclosed purposes" by the NGO from the foreign funds, while she functioned as Additional Solicitor, calling it a "misuse and diversion of funds".
It said records made available by the NGO "were not satisfactory and did not provide adequate explanation vis-a-vis the violations found and pointed out," adding, "we have arrived at a prima facie conclusion" that the NGO violated various provisions of the FCRA.
"The law states that a public servant cannot accept foreign funding...I wasn't ever a government servant, an additional solicitor general is not a government servant. Secondly, none of our funders have complained that the funds that they gave us were not used for the purpose for which they were meant," Ms Jaisingh said.
The government has over the past year, taken similar action against NGOs associated with activist Teesta Setalvad.