In the July 25th order granting relief to Lawyer's Collective, the Bombay High Court noted that there was no new material on the basis of which a FIR has been registered against Lawyers Collective, the NGO working in the field of human rights.
The bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre accepted the submissions put forth by Senior Advocate Aspi Chinoy who appeared on behalf of the petitioners.
Chinoy submitted that CBI carried out an inspection of the accounts and records of Lawyer's Collective in January, 2016 and they were supplied with the findings of the inspection containing 14 points.
Thereafter, his client's certificate of registration came to be suspended by the Ministry of Home Affairs on May 31, 2016 and they were barred from receiving and utilizing any foreign contribution without prior approval of the union Home Ministry, Chinoy said.
On November 27, 2011, petitioner's FCRA registration was cancelled and ancillary directions were taken to freeze all the bank accounts of petitioner.
This decision is already in appeal and since the respondent Authorities have already exercised the remedy available to them under the FCRA provisions, the present proceedings are nothing but an abuse of process of law, Chinoy said.
Specifically, Chinoy stated that the FIR is based on the same report of the inspection conducted of the books of accounts of Lawyer's Collective for the period 2009-10 to 2014-15 to ascertain violation of the provisions of the FCRA, in pursuance thereto, an action has already been initiated against petitioner.
On the other hand, CBI's counsel ASG Anil Singh submitted that allegations in the FIR are based on the findings of the inspection team, which conclusively lead to violation of FCRA provisions and he would place heavy reliance on the inspection report appended with the FIR. He would rely upon the findings in the said Report to demonstrate that there is brazen violation to the provisions of the FCRA by the petitioners.
He further submitted that interrogation of the petitioners was necessary.
Upon examining the submissions canvassed by both sides, Court noted how the NGO's registration had already been cancelled on the basis of the same report-
"Prima facie we are of the opinion that if any violation of FCRA is attributed to petitioner No.1, an action is already initiated and there is no new material which are brought on record by the present FIR which is solely and entirely based on the inspection of Report of 2016. Petitioner No.1 has responded to the show cause notice pursuant to which registration of petitioner No.1 was cancelled and the first appeal specifically alleges non consideration of the replies of petitioner No.1 and in such circumstances, in the absence of any fresh material being available for registration of the FIR, we deem it expedient to direct the respondents to file a detailed reply placing on record the material justifying the invocation of the provisions of the FCRA 2010."
Finally, the bench observed-
"However, since prima facie on perusal of the FIR, we are satisfied that it is based on the 2016 inspection report, we are inclined to grant adinterim relief in favour of the petitioners by directing the respondents not to take any coercive steps against the petitioners till the next date of hearing. We direct the matter be listed on 19/08/2019."