Victory of Democracy

Feature story - January 20, 2015
New Delhi, January 20, 2015. Delhi High Court today unblocked the funds that were frozen by the Ministry of Home Affairs in June last year.

Foreign funds were frozen post the release of an IB report in June 2014. Today, the Delhi High Court unblocked the funds that were frozen by the Ministry of Home Affairs in June last year. Greenpeace India has hailed the decision as a victory for democracy and free speech, and recognition of the vital role that NGOs play in a free society.

In an encouraging judgment, the Delhi High Court clearly stated that NGOs are entitled to have their viewpoint and merely because their views are not in consonance with that of the government’s, it does not mean that the NGO is acting against national interest.

“This is a vindication of our work and the role that credible NGOs play in support of India’s development. The court has deemed the government’s action as unconstitutional and has upheld the legitimacy of the issues Greenpeace takes up in India,” said Samit Aich, Executive Director, Greenpeace India.

“Arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional”, the Delhi High Court criticised the Ministry of home Affairs in very strong words.

In June 2014, the government had arbitrarily barred Greenpeace from receiving foreign funds from Greenpeace International and Climate Works Foundation. In the months since, the organisation has seen travel restrictions imposed on its personnel in moves widely seen as the beginning of a clampdown on NGOs.

The High Court observed that the Ministry of Home Affairs in its reply had stated that Greenpeace India can have access to all other foreign funds except Greenpeace International as Greenpeace International has been put on a watch-list. But it was observed that no material was put on record against Greenpeace International.

“The Court’s decision has come at a crucial time when sections of the government seem determined on harassing us and other NGOs. We are glad that the court ruled that the government’s actions were malafide and had absolutely no basis in law. This is a strong signal from the judiciary that the government must cease its campaign of harassment of civil society,” said Aich.

The court’s ruling comes soon after Greenpeace India campaigner Priya Pillai was prevented from boarding her flight to London on January 11. She was on her way to address British parliamentarians about the legal and human rights violations in Mahan, where London-registered Essar Energy hopes to build a coal mine. Besides Pillai, other activists working in Mahan have also been illegally arrested and harassed. The local community is protesting the threat to their forests and livelihoods posed by coal mining.

“Greenpeace India fights for very Indian values - empowered communities and a healthy living environment for the next generation. Greenpeace India is predominantly funded by Indians, run by Indians and focuses on environmental problems in India. Our campaigns are clearly in the national interest and have been challenging powerful corporate and political vested interests. And that is why attempts are being made to silence us,” said Aich.

With a new government in place, India stands at a crucial juncture and holds a lot of promise. “At this point in time, India needs to rethink its development parameters and adopt a model that is more equitable and environmentally sustainable,” he said.

Aich called upon the government to work in tandem with the civil society and not feel threatened by it. It is only through cooperation with the civil society that the government can achieve its mandate of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.

 

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