The All-India Drug Action Network (AIDAN) has condemned the Central Bureau of Investigation’s FIR against Lawyers Collective (LC), its president and senior Supreme Court advocates Anand Grover, and Indira Jaising and other office bearers.

The CBI action against LC was for the breach of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) and the use of foreign funds for political purposes, reports said. LC, a non-governmental organisation, has denied these allegations.

LC has played a key role in critical human rights cases, but in the realm of health, it represented the Cancer Patients Aid Association and fought India’s first drug-patent related case under the amended Patents Act.

A benchmark case that paved the way for greater access to blood cancer drug Glivec from Novartis, the litigation helped strengthen the use and implementation of Section 3 (d) under the Patents Act. Section 3 (d) disallows an extended period of patent protection on an incremental development made on an existing product, unless development resulted in greater efficacy of the product.

This provision has since been used to stave-off “evergreening” of patents and is a key bone of contention for foreign companies looking to bring patent-protected products into India.

Urging the government to withdraw the case against LC, AIDAN said in a note: “Generations of patients in India would be grateful to Lawyer’s Collective for the affirmation of Section 3 (d). Anand Grover’s and Lawyers Collective’s consistent work on Intellectual Property Rights issue from the public health and public interest perspective is deeply valued by health organisations and Positive People’s Networks, all over India and the world.”

LC was also involved in fighting for the rights of the marginalised. They represented the Naz Foundation in a case that culminated recently with the Supreme Court judgment on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, paving the way for the repeal of the historic law that decriminalised gay sex.

Other critical cases fought by LC included the triple talaaq case, the female genital mutilation case, etc, leading to landmark judgments, AIDAN said.

Outlining work done by Grover, the note pointed to his contribution as the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Health from August 2008 to July 2014. He is currently an acting member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and is a member of the UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human rights. “As UN Special Rapporteur on Health he was involved with bringing out several eye-opening reports. His report on Junk Food, energy dense but with ‘empty calories, and its association with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is an important document, with its highlighting of the growth of FDIs in Processed Food in Developing Countries and simultaneous growth of NCDs,” the note said.

“And yet the government has launched the FIR against Lawyers Collective seemingly because it got involved in some of the cases of human rights violations by the government,” the statement said, pointing to the case of alleged sexual harassment by Chief Justice Gogoi, where Indira Jaising demanded that due process of law be followed.

Grover and Jaisingh’s involvement in anti-establishment cases has resulted in vindictive action against them, the note said. “The FIR is a sequel to the investigation launched in 2016 into the alleged violation of provisions of the FCRA. Lawyers Collective has denied and refuted all the baseless charges against it and the matter is currently subjudice in the Bombay High Court,” the note said.

“This is a draconian attempt to threaten not only Grover, Jaising and colleagues, but also to send a signal to all other human rights advocates in India to desist from fighting for human rights in India,” AIDAN said, “unequivocally” condemning what it called the “gross abuse of governmental power.”