Over 150 citizens on Thursday condemned the raids on the homes and offices of senior advocates Indira Jaising and Anand Grover earlier in the day. The signatories said the raids, which were carried out on their properties in both Delhi and Mumbai, were “nothing short of a brute show of intimidation as well as gross abuse of power”.

Earlier in the day, the Central Bureau of Investigation started searching the homes and offices of both the lawyers in a case related to alleged violation of rules under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. Last month, the agency had filed a case against Grover and his non-governmental organisation Lawyers Collective for alleged discrepancies in the utilisation of foreign aid. Grover is a trustee and director of Lawyers Collective. Jaising, who is married to Grover, is a trustee and secretary of the organisation.

“We, the undersigned individuals, strongly condemn the raids at the home and offices of senior advocates Ms Indira Jaising and Mr Anand Grover this morning by the CBI,” the group’s statement read. “This is especially so since both the advocates, well known for their pioneering work in the field of human rights, and their NGO, ‘Lawyers Collective’, have fully cooperated with the authorities ever since criminal charges were filed against them in alleged FCRA violation cases. The raids that have taken place today despite this show of cooperation are shocking.”

The group said the retaliation against the Lawyers Collective first began in 2016 when their Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act licence had been suspended, which was challenged by the Bombay High Court. The statement, also enumerated the achievements of both the lawyers.

“Ms Jaising and Mr Grover, through Lawyers Collective, have advocated for advancing the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of Indian society, including children,” it said. “On several occasions, they have challenged the unconstitutional and anti-people actions and policies of the State through judicial processes.”

The group also laid down certain appeals in their statement. It urged that both Jaising and Grover be spared the intimidation and harassment. “The criminal charges against Lawyers Collective be immediately withdrawn pending the decision of the High Court of Bombay,” it said.

The signatories said the laws and the state machinery should not be used against the “human rights defenders”. The statement urged the National Human Rights Commission of India to take cognisance of this matter and immediately take “action under the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993, including a review of the FCRA [Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act] under Section 12 (d) of the PHRA [Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Act]”.