The Lawyers Collective has termed the simultaneous raids conducted by the CBI at the offices and residences at Delhi and Mumbai of Senior Advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover on Thursday a 'vicious means to humiliate, intimidate and silence'.
In a statement published in its official website, the Collective and its trustees Jaising and Grover expressed "shock, anger and indignation" at the CBI raids which went on past midnight.
The central agency's action was in relation to an FIR registered against the NGO and its officials in June for alleged violations of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act.
The NGO has said that the action against it under FCRA was initiated by the Ministry of Home Affairs way back in 2016 by cancelling its license, which is under challenge in the Bombay High Court.
In 2016, MHA officials had carried out extensive search for over five days and documents of thousands of pages were handed over to them by the Collective. Therefore, the sudden action by the CBI after three years, that too without any prior notice or summons, is motivated by extraneous reasons, alleges the Collective.
"Yesterday's raids by the CBI in relation to the very same FCRA documents, which the MHA had inspected and taken copies of 3 and ½ years ago. The CBI could well have summoned the documents but they took the action to raid and humiliate Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover. The CBI's actions are totally unwarranted, illegal and amount to gross abuse of the process of law", the statement read.
"The events only reconfirm the malicious nature of the FCRA proceedings against the Lawyers Collective and its functionaries. The FIR and the raids carried out are nothing but a vicious means to humiliate, intimidate and silence its Trustees, Ms. Indira Jaising and Mr. Anand Grover, whose fierce independence and advocacy for human rights, perturbs the political establishment of the day", it added.
"The Lawyers Collective has been targeted because of the nature of cases that Ms. Jaising and Mr. Grover have taken up in their professional capacity, including those against the leading figures of the ruling dispensation in various sensitive cases."
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.
Several lawyers, writers, artists, journalists and academics have issued a joint statement condemning the CBI FIR, saying that, "The work of Lawyer's Collective in general and Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, in particular, has contributed to changing the lives not just of individuals but of citizens of a democratic republic. They have not only represented the rights of individuals and communities such as slum dwellers, workers, trade unions, prisoners, SC/ST associations, Bhopal Gas tragedy victims, women, LGBTQ+ and other marginalised communities as lawyers, but have also contributed immensely to the discourse of human rights and state accountability as public intellectual".
Read the full statement of Lawyers Collective here