India court grants temporary relief to Greenpeace

Court orders authorities to unfreeze Greenpeace’s local bank accounts, allowing environmental group to operate in India.

In a massive clampdown against NGOs, the Ministry of Home Affairs recently cancelled the licenses of 8,975 organisations [AFP]

A court in New Delhi has allowed environmental watchdog and lobby group, Greenpeace India, to use funds from two of its local bank accounts in order to continue its operations in the country, local media said, after the government froze its funds in a recent crackdown on NGOs.


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“Our domestic accounts have been unblocked. This gives us the minimum resources to function and continue to protect India’s environment,” the group said on Twitter after the court ruling.

The move came as the Netherlands-based environmental nongovernmental organisation (NGO) urged the court to lift the blocking of its financial assets that was imposed last month.

Greenpeace has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of waging a “malicious campaign” against the group after its foreign funding licence was withdrawn last month.

India’s government has cracked down on hundreds of NGOs, including Greenpeace, which it has accused of “violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act”.

Greenpeace said, however, that the ruling was only temporary, with further court hearings into its petition against the government’s crackdown expected later this year.

“Sixty percent of the money Greenpeace receives is from ordinary citizens, not corporations or government entities. According to the law, the government has no right to block these funds,” Pranonjoy Guha Thakurta, a board member of the Greenpeace India Society, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

‘Political motives’

Indira Jaising, a prominent lawyer in India, told Al Jazeera that the funds the government permitted Greenpeace to utilise were those raised legally with local fundings, as opposed to the ones that came from abroad.

 Narendra Modi’s crackdown on NGOs

“The government is still deciding on what to do with Greenpeace’s funds that came from outside of India,” she said.

Jaisingh also suggested that Greenpeace was targeted by the government because of its criticisms of India’s policies pushing for more industrial development, which could harm the environment and tribal communities.

“I am sure there were political motives because it was questioning the government’s development policies,” she said.

In a massive clampdown against NGOs, the Ministry of Home Affairs recently cancelled the licenses of 8,975 organisations for allegedly failing to file annual returns.

Priya Pillai, Greenpeace India’s senior campaigner told Al Jazeera’s Inside Story that “the government was being disproportionate” in its action.

“The government is acting undemocratically and is trying to muzzle active voices of dissent in this country. India should lead the way in showing how different views and opinions can coexist,” she said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies