NEW DELHI, Jan 21 – A court here today ordered the government to unblock thousands of dollars of Greenpeace India’s funds after they were frozen following accusations that foreign-funded campaign groups were hurting India’s economy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government tightened controls on foreign fund transfers to Greenpeace India in June following an intelligence report accusing activist groups of “stalling development projects” by protesting against power projects, mining and genetically modified food.
“We are glad that the court ruled that the government’s actions were malafide and had absolutely no basis in law,” Greenpeace India executive director Samit Aich said in a statement. “This is a strong signal from the judiciary that the government must cease its campaign of harassment of civil society.”
Greenpeace India said that the latest court order meant that the funds must be released with immediate effect. Today’s ruling came four months after the Delhi High Court directed the Home Ministry to unblock the funds totalling more than US$272,000, but Greenpeace India said it had not received any money since the order.
Greenpeace chief Kumi Naidoo had personally appealed to Modi in November to release funds. New Delhi airport officials have imposed travel bans on Greenpeace staff members in recent months, which the group has described as “bullying” by Indian authorities.
India has clamped down on activist groups over the past two years and has restricted direct transfers of foreign donations, following campaigns that delayed important industrial projects. Greenpeace India took its case to the Delhi High Court last year after its bank denied it funds from Greenpeace International, citing lack of home ministry clearance.
India’s biggest corporate groups have flocked behind business-friendly Modi, whose Hindu nationalist government swept to power in May elections on a pledge to revive India’s ailing economy. But activists have expressed concern that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s dash for growth will mean a watering down of environmental standards and land acquisition laws to favour business.