On Friday, 8 November, the Supreme Court will hear a petition filed by the Central Board of Investigation (CBI) challenging the Bombay High Court order restraining the agency from taking any coercive action against NGO Lawyers Collective and its founding members, senior lawyers Anand Grover and Indira Jaising.
The appeal was filed by the CBI on 18 October and was verified and accepted by the registry on Thursday, 7 November. The matter has been listed for hearing on Friday morning in the court of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
On 13 June 2019, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered an FIR against the NGO, Lawyers Collective, as well as its founders, Grover and Jaising, on the basis of alleged violations of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA), and the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 (PC Act).
Following raids on their homes and offices, Grover and Jaising approached the Bombay High Court to quash the FIR against them. On 25 July, the high court passes an interim order directing the CBI to take "no coercive steps" against them while the investigation into the case against them.
Essentially this means that Grover and Jaising cannot be arrested or detained by the agency for custodial interrogation.
The CBI's argument against this order is that it is contrary to a previous Supreme Court judgment in 2017, in State of Telangana vs Habib Abdullah Jeelani. They say that in this judgment, the apex court had held that when hearing petitions to quash FIRs, high courts of the country cannot pass orders restraining investigating agencies from taking coercive steps against the accused, as this amounts to granting them anticipatory bail – without satisfying the conditions required for grant of anticipatory bail.
The CBI points out that the reason provided by the Bombay High Court for granting this interim relief to Grover and Jaising was as follows:
“Since prima facie on perusal of the FIR, we are satisfied that it is based on the 2016 inspection report”
The FIR is based on a complaint under FCRA and PC Act by the Ministry of Home Affairs in May this year, that relies solely on the observations of an inspection conducted by the MHA from 19-23 January 2016.
The CBI says that the high court was wrong to provide interim relief to the accused on this basis, saying in their petition:
"As such, it was completely impermissible for the Honorable High Court to pass the impugned order which in pith and substance is an order in nature of S. 438 CrPC order passed without satisfying the conditions mentioned therein."
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