A week after the CBI raided the offices and residences of Senior Advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover in relation to FCRA case against their NGO Lawyers Collective, the Supreme Court Bar Association Executive Committee has issued a statement against the central agency's action.
"SCBA EC expresses its concern over the raids and search operations conducted by CBI at the residence and offices in Delhi and Mumbai, of its two senior members known for their human rights work and public cause litigations. There should not be any interference with the independence and professional discharge of duties of an advocate", said the message sent by President Senior Advocate Rakesh Kumar Khanna to SCBA members.
Earlier, more than hundred lawyers of the Supreme Court lawyers had written to the SCBA urging it to issue a statement condemning the CBI raids.
"We impress upon the SCBA to issue a statement condemning the actions of the CBI in raiding the residences and offices of the two most eminent Senior Advocates before the Bar. At such a time, it is important that the SCBA issue a clear and unambiguous message that we stand by our own", said the letter.
Stating that Indira Jaising and Anand Grover have consistently upheld the rule of law and the cause of justice and have committed their practice to the advocacy of marginalized groups, the advocates expressed solidarity with them, "in the face of clear abuse of process by the state machinery".
The Delhi High Court Bar Association has already issued a statement condemning the raids, stating that it "expresses grave concern over search operations by law enforcement agencies in Advocates'offices. Call upon agencies not to take any steps which impair independence of profession."
The Bar Association of India has condemned the CBI raids as an 'assault on the independence of lawyers'.
Lawyers in Mumbai, Chennai and other parts of country have staged demonstrations expressing solidarity with Grover and Jaising.
The agency had filed an FIR on June 13 against Grover who is the president of Lawyers Collective, a voluntary group known for raising human rights issues in courts, on the basis of a complaint by the Home Ministry that foreign aid received by the group was used in violation of norms.
Lawyers Collective said that the action for alleged violation of FCRA was taken by MHA in 2016 itself, and its officials had inspected and seized several documents from them. Therefore the sudden raid by CBI after three years is wholly uncalled for, especially so when no other NGO whose FCRA license got cancelled in 2016 is facing any criminal action, said the Collective in a statement. The raids are "improper and deplorable" also for the reason that the raided premises included lawyers offices having privileged communications with clients,"including those stigmatized because of HIV or other status", the statement said.
The FIR was registered after the Supreme Court issued notice in a PIL filed by an NGO named 'Lawyers Voice' demanding probe against Lawyers Collective. Soon after the CJI-led bench issued notice in the PIL, Jaising issued a statement suggesting that she was being targeted for demanding due enquiry process in the sexual harassment allegations against the CJI Ranjan Gogoi.