The Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday moved the Supreme Court, challenging a Bombay High Court order restraining it from taking any coercive action against non-governmental organisation Lawyers Collective, and lawyers Anand Grover and Indira Jaising, who are its founders, PTI reported. The CBI has registered a case against Grover and the NGO for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

In July, the CBI searched the homes and offices of Jaising and Grover in Delhi and Mumbai, a month after filing a case against them on the basis of a complaint by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Jaising had then said that she was being targeted along with her husband. “Mr Grover and I are being targeted for the human rights work that we have done over the years,” she told reporters.

The same month, the Bombay High Court granted interim relief to the advocates after Lawyers Collective filed an appeal, arguing that the agency’s first information report had “no basis in fact and in law”. The NGO claimed that the FIR had been filed to target and silence its office bearers for the cases they had taken up in the past.

On Friday, the CBI told the Supreme Court that the High Court had neither said how the FIR was “unsustainable and bad in law” nor had it ruled how it would be unlawful to continue the investigation.

“As such, it was completely impermissible for the High Court to pass the impugned order which in pith and substance is an order in nature of Section 438 CrPC order passed without satisfying the conditions mentioned therein,” the agency said. Section 438 of the Indian Penal Code deals with directions to grant bail to a person or persons apprehending arrest.

The CBI has alleged that Lawyers Collective failed to disclose a major part of the foreign funds it received between 2009 and 2015. It has claimed that Jaising and Grover used the funds for their personal benefits. In its complaint, the home ministry claimed that Jaising drew remuneration from the NGO even during her tenure as additional solicitor general.

The lawyers for Jaising and Grover have argued that the home ministry’s complaint was based on an inspection report from 2016 that had pointed out a single violation of non-disclosure under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. The CBI told the Supreme Court that the High Court order rested on the “completely untenable reason that the FIR is based solely and entirely on the inspection of report of 2016 and that there is absence of any fresh material, therefore, an order of no coercive step was warranted”.

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