The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta and his non-governmental organisation Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, or LIFE, for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, reported PTI on Saturday.
The case was registered after the Union Home Ministry alleged that LIFE was receiving funds from American non-profits, Earth Justice and Sandler Foundation, to litigate against Indian coal projects with the intention of “targeting and stalling” them.
The objective of the law is to regulate the acceptance and usage of foreign funds by individuals and associations. The law prevents foreign entities from having undue influence on the working of governmental or non-governmental organisations in the country through contributions.
The complaint, which is now part of the first information report, alleges that Earth Justice is a United States-based NGO that funds legal professionals in various countries to litigate against coal projects. Along with the Sandler Foundation, the Earth Justice funded LIFE to “take down” India’s existing or proposed coal projects – a violation of the Act – alleged the complainant.
Dutta allegedly received Rs 41 Lakh in foreign contributions in financial year 2013-’14 from Earth Justices after which he established LIFE, the FIR alleged. LIFE then received Rs 22 crore during from 2016 to 2021 in the form of professional receipts, reported PTI.
The FIR also alleged that LIFE did not provide legal advice to Earth Justice.
Another non-profit organisation, the European Climate Foundation, donated $120,000, or about Rs 98.44 lakh, through Earth Justice to LIFE for litigation, the CBI alleged. The funds were provided even though both Earth Justice and European Climate Foundation were not litigants in any of the cases, the central agency said.
The case against LIFE comes days after the Central Bureau of Investigation booked non-governmental organisation Oxfam India and its office-bearers for alleged violation of the FCRA.