Indian police raid prominent lawyers who took on ruling party leaders

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian police raided the offices and homes of two top human rights lawyers on Thursday in an investigation into foreign funding for their NGO, prompting criticism they were being targeted for political reasons.

Indian lawyer and activist Anand Grover gets out from a car in New Delhi, India, July 11, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

The Central Bureau of Investigation conducted searches relating to a case filed against the non-profit Lawyers Collective and its president, Anand Grover, for allegedly violating laws on foreign funds, a police official said.

In a statement issued in June, after the CBI registered a complaint against the group, Lawyers Collective said it was being targeted for taking up sensitive cases against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and some of its leaders.

Founded in 1981 by Grover and prominent human rights lawyer Indira Jaising, Lawyers Collective is among the thousands of foreign-funded charities hit by increased scrutiny by the Narendra Modi government.

“The searches are ongoing,” said the CBI official, who declined to be named.

Grover told Reuters CBI conducted raids at his offices and homes in Delhi and Mumbai.

The CBI alleges that Lawyers Collective and Grover have violated the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA), aside from other wrongdoing, which the group has denied.

Since Modi took office in 2014, more than 10,000 civil society groups in India have had their licenses to receive overseas donations canceled or suspended for violations of the FCRA.

Jaising, Grover’s wife and a former senior government law officer, is not an accused in the CBI’s case, but her name is mentioned in the preliminary police investigation report.

“Mr Grover and I are being targeted for the human rights work we have done over the years,” Jaising told reporters on Thursday.

Leaders from opposition groups, including the regional Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress, said the raids were examples of a government “vendetta.”

“This government is harassing citizens and all voices of opposition,” Trinamool Congress spokesman Derek O’Brien said.

Additional reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani