The Delhi High Court Monday allowed the Centre to submit information in sealed cover in connection with a plea by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) challenging the suspension of its registration for 180 days for alleged violations of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).
“Send whatever you want to,” said Justice Rekha Palli, questioning the Centre’s counsel over the reason behind the request to furnish information in such a manner.
“What secret is going to be in interpretation of a statute? I’m not considering suspension but interim arrangement,” the judge said.
Centre’s standing counsel Anil Soni explained that the information to be shared was in a secret document.
“It is a secret classified document. They want to send in sealed cover. Intelligence inputs come in”.
The court nonetheless asked Mr Soni to look into it and listed the matter for further hearing on July 29.
Earlier this month, the court had sought Centre’s response to the petition against the suspension order as well as CHRI’s request to permit it to utilise 25 per cent of the amount received as foreign funding until such time as the suspension of its registration is revoked.
CHRI has sought quashing of the June 7 suspension order alleging that it was “patently without jurisdiction, ultra vires section 13 of the FCRA, unreasonable, manifestly arbitrary, excessive and disproportionate, on the face of it being based on wholly incorrect facts and for violating basic principles of natural justice”.
CHRI has argued that suspension order has completely paralysed its functioning, threatens the livelihood of its employees and casts a stigma on its reputation.
A 180-day suspension is a drastic measure that threatens the very existence of CHRI, apart from causing great harm to its reputation built painstakingly over three decades, the pleas said, adding that the consequent freezing of its receipt and utilisation bank accounts have severely restricted its planned programme activities.
CHRI is now not in a position to pay salaries to its 40 staff members and consultants, whose livelihoods depend on it, especially in these difficult times precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has said.
The petition highlighted that CHRI’s current Executive Committee has a galaxy of legal luminaries, former top police officials, environmental leaders and Wajahat Habibullah, the first Chief Information Commissioner of India, is its Chairperson.
The other committee members include former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur and former Delhi high court Chief Justice A P Shah.
The allegations against CHRI include mixing foreign contribution with domestic donation and non-intimation of specific accounts.
In 2016, CHRI’s registration under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act of 2010 was renewed up to October 31, 2021.
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