The Delhi High Court on 18 May issued a notice to the Central government on a plea of environment NGO Greenpeace India to de-freeze its international and national bank accounts. The bank accounts were blocked following a home ministry directive last month.
Justice Rajiv Shakdher sought response from the home ministry by May 26 that challenged the suspension of Greenpeace’s FCRA licence for 180 days and freezing of its bank accounts.
The court asked the counsel of the Centre to take instruction and inform it whether funds of the NGO’s domestic accounts can be released for its day-to-day expenditure, including employees salaries.
The suspension of licence and freezing of accounts were completely “illegal and unconstitutional”, it said.
The court asked three major Indian banks — IDBI Bank, Yes Bank and ICICI Bank —in which the NGO holds accounts, to file their responses on the plea.
Greenpeace has claimed these banks didn’t have the right to freeze the accounts without a court order and their actions represent a “breach of trust”.
“The petitioner is unable to meet its salaries, rent, statutory liabilities, such as TDS, provident fund, gratuity payments, and professional taxes, and third party payments,” the petition said.
“Our national bank accounts contain donations from thousands of Indian citizens, who give as little as Rs.350 a month. Because they’re frozen, we have had to scale back our smaller campaigns.,” Greenpeace India said.
Earlier this month, Greenpeace India executive director Samit Aich told the NGO’s employees to brace themselves for possibility of a shutdown. He said: “We have one month left to save Greenpeace India from complete shutdown, and to fight the home ministry’s decision to block our domestic accounts.”