The National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday issued summons to Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and the Ministry of Home Affairs, in relation to Amnesty International India’s decision to stop operations in India as the government allegedly froze its bank accounts. The commission has sought the replies within six weeks.

“National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, India takes suo motu cognizance of the matter and directs issuance of the notice to the Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi, calling for their comments on the allegations levelled by the Amnesty International as mentioned in the news report,” NHRC said in a statement.

The NHRC referred to Amnesty India’s statement and said the group’s allegations are “serious in nature” and were strongly answered by the home ministry.

In a statement, Amnesty had cited “reprisal’” from the government for winding down its operations – a decision that will put about 150 employees out of jobs. It called the authorities’ action a part of an “incessant witch-hunt”, and said its “lawful fundraising model” was being portrayed as money laundering because Amnesty India had challenged the “government’s grave inactions and excesses.”

Amnesty India’s executive director, Avinash Kumar, said the accounts were frozen as a result of the group’s “unequivocal calls for transparency in the government” and accountability of the police and the government regarding “grave human rights violations in Delhi riots” and in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Amnesty International has reportedly accused the government of suppressing the speech and demanded the release of activists Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Sudha Bhardwaj, Surendra Gadling and others who were arrested in connection with the January, 2018 caste clashes in Bhima-Koregaon near Pune in Maharashtra. It is also mentioned in the news report that this is the fifth time when the Amnesty International is closing down its office in India.  

— National Human Rights Commission

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, however, has denied the charges of the organisation, alleging that Amnesty was raising funds from abroad in contravention of the Indian laws. They have also stated that there has been shifting money transfer to the companies and there is suspected flow of money into the trust of Amnesty International. The home ministry said the stand taken by Amnesty was unfortunate, exaggerated and “far from the truth”.

It is further mentioned in the news report that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been investigating the rights group since October, 2018 when they raided its office in Bengaluru and the accounts of the organization were freezed. In the year 2019 the Income Tax Department wrote to the office bearers of the organization seeking their clarifications on the subject. 

It is also mentioned that in November, 2019, CBI has filed a case against the Amnesty International alleging that it has received Rs. 36 crore in funding without the mandatory permission required under the FCRA. 

The Investigative Agencies have also reportedly alleged that the fund raising model of Amnesty International India was in violation of FCRA that amounts to money laundering. The organization has also been blamed for their activities which are in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws.

— National Human Rights Commission

The NHRC said that given the serious nature of these allegations “any kind of difference of opinion may be a subject of investigation and decision by the competent court”. “The Commission finds it necessary to go through the matter, analyse the facts and reach a conclusion in the interest of human rights friendly environment in the country,” it added. “The response is expected within six weeks.”