Not considering suspension but interim arrangement, HC on CHRI plea

The Delhi High Court on Monday allowed the Central government to submit, in a sealed cover, its response to the plea by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) against suspension of its registration for 180 days over allegations that the NGO violated the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

Justice Rekha Palli queried Centre’s counsel for the reason to bring on record information in a sealed cover. “Send whatever you want to… what secret is going to be in interpretation of a statute? I’m not considering suspension but interim arrangement.”

Counsel submitted that the information to be shared was in a secret, classified document. “They want to send in sealed cover. Intelligence inputs come in,” he said. After hearing the arguments, the court scheduled the matter for further hearing on July 29.

The CHRI had submitted that suspension order has completely paralysed its functioning, threatens livelihood of its employees, and casts a stigma on its reputation.

The NGO had sought quashing of the June 7 suspension order, arguing 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”.

The high court, earlier this month, had sought Centre’s reply on the suspension order along with CHRI’s request to allow it to use 25 percent of the amount received as foreign funding, till the time suspension of its registration is revoked.

The NGO’s plea suspension order had also severely restricted its planned programme activities, and added it is now not in a position to pay salaries to its 40 staff members and consultants, especially in these difficult times precipitated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The CHRI said its current executive committee has legal luminaries, former top police officials, environmental leaders and Wajahat Habibullah, the first Chief Information Commissioner of India, is its chairperson. It added that the other committee members include former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B. Lokur and former Delhi High Court’s Chief Justice A.P. Shah.