Greenpeace India Society v. Union of India

Access to Justice
NGO - legal issues
Procedural Issues

Greenpeace India Society v. Union of India, W.P. (C) 5749/2014 (January 20, 2015)
High Court of Delhi at New Delhi

Greenpeace India challenged directions issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs blocking Greenpeace India’s access to funds transferred to it from foreign donors through legitimate banking channels.  Greenpeace India established that it was properly registered under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) and regularly filed necessary returns with the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

In finding the directions illegal and unconstitutional , the High Court wrote: “There is no material placed on record, which would show, not at least at this juncture, that the activities carried out by [Greenpeace India], as claimed by the respondents, are detrimental to national interest. [Greenpeace India’s] disagreement with the policies of the Government of India, could not, per se be construed as actions which are detrimental to national interest. Non-Governmental Organizations often take positions, which are contrary to the policies formulated by the Government of the day. That by itself, in my view, cannot be used to portray, petitioner’s action as being detrimental to national interest. The government is free to execute its policies as it has the mandate of the people behind it, notwithstanding a different point of view of Non-Governmental Organizations, such as the petitioner.”  Para. 9.1

The High Court also criticized the ministry for placing a freeze on the account and subsequently conducting an investigation into Greenpeace India’s activities.  The organization is entitled to access its funds unless and until the ministry determines that the FCRA has been violated.  The ministry cannot block the funds and then investigate whether the law might have been breached.