Recently, India’s Home Ministry cancelled Greenpeace India’s FCRA registration that allowed the organization to receive foreign funding.
Greenpeace India filed a plea in Madras High Court, and the court has now ordered a temporary eight-week stay on the government order.
Greenpeace India is continuing with its environmental campaigns despite legal and financial hurdles.
On September 2, 2015, the Indian government ordered yet another clampdown on Greenpeace India.
India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an order cancelling the organization’s FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) registration, which allows the NGO to receive foreign donations. The order alleged that Greenpeace India accounts showed numerous financial irregularities. It also listed nine instances in which the organization had violated several provisions of the FCRA.
For example, the MHA order notes that “Greenpeace India Society has under-reported and repeatedly mentioned incorrect amount of foreign contribution received in violation of Section 33 of FCRA, 2010.”
Greenpeace India, however, has maintained that the allegations are untrue. The Madras High Court heard the NGOs petition on September 15, and has now granted a temporary stay on the order for eight weeks. The court has also directed Greenpeace India’s advocate to serve a notice to the Indian Home Ministry, asking them to respond to the NGO’s petition within the eight-week period.
“We are confident that we have a strong legal case to demonstrate that the MHA is acting without any justification,” Vinuta Gopal, co-Executive Director of Greenpeace India, said in a statement. “This is the fourth time we have had to seek legal recourse and the fourth time that we’ve had to legally challenge decisions of MHA.”
Greenpeace India’s troubles with the Indian government began in June 2014, when the then newly appointed government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi deemed the NGO’s activities anti-national and undemocratic.
A leaked report by India’s Intelligence Bureau claimed that several foreign-funded NGOs, including Greenpeace India, were “taking down Indian developmental projects” by indulging in persistent agitations against these projects. According to the report, the “negative impact on India’s GDP due to these protests was assessed to be two to three percent per year.”
The report notes, for example, that “anti-coal activism is spearheaded by US-based ‘green’ organizations and Greenpeace, which have formed a ‘Coal Network’ to take-down India’s 455 proposed coal fired power plants.”
Since June 2014, Modi government has blocked several Greenpeace India bank accounts and frozen their funding. It also barred Priya Pillai, a Greenpeace India activist, from boarding a flight to the UK. Pillai was going to brief British Parliamentarians about issues regarding potential human rights violations that could result from coal mining within protected forests.
The Indian government has also targeted numerous other NGOs, like Sabarang Trust and Citizens for Justice, for allegedly violating FCRA. It also placed US-funded Ford Foundation on a security watch list earlier this year.
The Indian courts have, however, ruled in favor of Greenpeace India on several occasions. In January of this year, for example, the Delhi High Court directed the government to unblock Greenpeace India’s frozen funds. The court also declared that the Indian Home Ministry’s actions were ‘arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional’.
Similarly in March 2015, the Delhi High Court ordered that Priya Pillai be allowed to travel abroad, and the judge presiding over the case said that while ‘criticism by an individual may not be palatable, it cannot be muzzled.’
Despite the repeated onslaught of legal and financial hurdles, Greenpeace India has continued with its campaigns to protect the environment. The organization has had to make some changes, though, such as having to cut its staff size and downsize some of its campaigns, according to the New York Times.
However, most of Greenpeace India’s funding — about 70 percent — comes from Indian citizens, Gopal said in a statement, and so most of their work can continue.
“Cutting access to our foreign funding may be a desperate attempt to get us to cease our work, but the MHA probably didn’t count on our having an amazing network of volunteers and supporters who have helped us continue our work despite the government crackdown,” Gopal said in another statement.