The Centre Monday told the Delhi High Court that it cannot produce the record relating to suspension of registration of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) as it wishes to invoke the confidentiality clause. The Centre’s counsel said it will file an application within a week in this regard.
Justice Rekha Palli said that as and when the application is filed, it will be considered on merits. She further said that the court will also examine if the Centre can seek confidentiality without having issued notice to the CHRI.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati and standing counsel Anil Soni, representing the Centre, submitted that enquiry was initiated against the organisation and that the original record was not being produced as it wants to invoke confidentiality.
The court observed that the stand now being taken by the Centre was contrary to the court’s directions of October 25, when it had asked the government to produce the original record of the case. 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 the suspension order has completely paralysed its functioning, threatens the livelihood of its employees and casts a stigma on its reputation.
The petitioner’s counsel has submitted that the suspension order was passed without any enquiry ever having been initiated against the organisation and at the time of passing of the order, no show cause notice contemplating initiation of enquiry against the petitioner was issued to it.
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 plea 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.
-With PTI Inputs