Holding “different beliefs than that of the government does not make (one) an enemy of the state,” said the Delhi high court on Tuesday while directing Centre to release nearly Rs 2 crore of foreign funding to Greenpeace India, which had been blocked following a home ministry order in June 2014.
While allowing the environment activists’ plea seeking a release of Rs 1.87 crore sent by its parent organisation, justice Rajiv Shakdher noted there was “no material on record to restrict” Greenpeace India from “accessing its bank account,” or to explain why Greenpeace International was on the government watch-list.
Calling the government’s actions arbitrary and unconstitutional, court observed the home ministry’s actions — wherein the NGO and its Amsterdam parent had received no notice of the government’s intentions to block funding — were against the principles of natural justice. “First you freeze the account, then you investigate the case?” it asked the Centre.
While Greenpeace is celebrating the verdict as a “vindication of (their) work”, MHA officers told HT that the ministry will decide the next course of action after examining the high court order.
In June 2014, an IB report submitted to MHA alleged that Greenpeace India was misusing foreign funds to hamper India’s economic growth. Based on this, RBI was directed to freeze all the NGO’s foreign contributions from its parent organisation and Climate Works Foundation, and obtain foreign contribution regulation act department clearance before releasing any such funds.
The directive had crippled the NGO’s day-to-day functioning prompting it to approach the High Court alleging the government had acted arbitrarily.
Earlier this month, a Greenpeace India activist Priya Pillai – known for her work against Essar’s Mahan coalmines in MP – was offloaded without warning at a Delhi airport while on her way to an international meeting with Greenpeace International.