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HC seeks Centre reply on Greenpeace plea against a/c freeze

Delhi high court

New Delhi: Delhi High Court today sought the Centre’s response on Greenpeace India’s plea challenging suspension of its FCRA registration and freeze on its bank accounts, both domestic and those meant for foreign contributions.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher asked the government counsel to take instructions on whether funds of Greenpeace’s domestic accounts can be released for its day-to-day running, including for paying salaries of its volunteers.

“Insofar as salaries and other expenses are concerned, something has to be done. Take instructions,” the court said to the lawyer appearing for MHA.

Apart from the Centre, the court also issued notice to and sought reply of the three banks –IDBI, ICICI and Yes Bank — which had complied with the Home Ministry’s (MHA) directive to freeze the NGO’s accounts.

It also asked Greenpeace to file an affidavit indicating details of its day-to-day functioning expenses, including salaries to be paid to the NGO’s volunteers or workers, and listed the matter for hearing on May 26.

During the hearing, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, who appeared for the NGO, argued that the purpose behind freezing of its domestic accounts was to stop it from paying salaries to its employees and volunteers.

He said salaries have not been paid since April 9 as the NGO has no funds for day-to-day activities.

Terming as “subterranean” MHA’s conduct of directing banks not to credit donations received into the NGO’s account, Subramaniam said such “arrogance of power needs to be corrected”.

He also questioned from where the government got the power to freeze its accounts.

Observing that the issue here was whether the government can tolerate dissent in democracy, Subramaniam questioned the ‘watch list’ and ‘prior permission list prepared by the authorities.

MHA on April 9 had suspended the NGO’s registration under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) for 180 days, Greenpeace said in its plea.

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