CHENNAI: Chennai: Eco activist group Greenpeace India's run of bad luck continues with the Tamil Nadu Registrar of Societies cancelling the organisation's registration citing several reasons - including what it claims to be fraudulent accounting. The organisation, however, has stated that the cancellation has been motivated by instructions from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
"The RoS is clearly acting under directions from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi, which has been trying to shut Greenpeace India down for over a year now. The MHA’s clumsy tactics to suppress free speech and dissenting voices are turning into a major national and international embarrassment for this government. This is an extension of the deep intolerance for differing viewpoints that sections of this government seem to harbor," said Executive Director Vinuta Gopal of Greenpeace
Further, speaking exclusively to the Express, Vinuta Gopal said that the RoS had consistently ignored their requests for clarification, even after the Madras High Court had ordered the RoS to do so. "The fact they have ignored our repeated requests is telling. We will definitely appeal the order in the Courts and we are confident that we will be given relief," she said adding that the RoS' statement in the cabcellation order that Greenpeace's requests were "irrelevant and invalid" was, "absolute nonsense. They haven't responded because they cannot."
The cancellation order from the District Registrar Chennai, dated November 4 and received by the organisation on November 6, cites several reasons for the cancellation. Firstly, the order says that Greenpeace India had filed its returns late for the years 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2009-10. It also states as an irregularity that Greenpeace India does not function independantly but under the control of STICHTING Green Peace Council at Netherlands.
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But more seriously, the order states that the documents on the organisation's accounts acquired during an inspection carried out by the Sub-Registrar (Chit & Society) on June 3, does not correspond to the figures submitted by the NGO to the Registrar.
According to the RoS, the statements filed by the organisation to the FCRA and to the Registrar of Societies differ significantly for the years from 2005-06 to 2011-12. "It is seen from here that different amounts were shown in the report for the years 2005-06 to 2011-12. This is seen as fraudulent activities of the society," says the order.
Moreover, it also states that the response of Greenpeace to the show cause notice following the inspection mentions "irrelevant matters" and was "off the mark". Greenpeace had also filed a writ petition to the Madras High Court that had directed the Registrar to permit Greenpeace to inspect the books and documents that it had seized on August 4. Greenpeace Executive Director Vinuta Gopal had perused the documents on September 7, said the Registrar. However, he also says that he had received a legal notice from Greenpeace's advocate that were contradictory to what had transpired during Gopal's perusal.
"The advocates' letter is nothing but a camouflage to wriggle out of the commitment of the Executive Director," states the order.
Pursuant to examination of the above factors - late filing of returns, a series of irregularities and violations, responses that were irrelevant and invalid and "falsification of accounts" for several years, the District Registrar has said that it is satisfied that Green Peace India Society has contravened the law and canceled its registration. Greenpeace would have to dissolve itself within a month of the order's date.
Greenpeace has come out with an extensive rebuttal of the claims made by the District Registrar, in an advocates notice dated October 5, asking the Registrar to respond to their queries.
Firstly, Greenpeace has said that the Registrar had only informed their client that there would be an Inspection. But the Registrar had filed an Inquiry report and that could only be filed after after an Inquiry, which Greenpeace has alleged the Registrar never communicated its intention to do. "The law makes a distinct difference between an inspection and an inquiry," pointed out Greenpeace.
On the more serious allegations, Greenpeace has said that at no point in time has it been under the control of any foreign organisation. "Greenpeace is a network of independent autonomous organisations" and not a worldwide organisation. Furthermore, Greenpeace states that the information that the society would cooperate with foreign organisations had been in the bye laws that were certified by the Registrar itself when granting the Certificate of Registration in 2002.
"These bye laws are not new," Greenpeace stated and questioned why were they being cited as irregularities suddenly. Furthermore, the society has asked the Registrar to point out which laws were being violated and why these bye laws were initially approved, 13 years earlier, if they were in contravention of the law.
On the claims of fraudulent account keeping, Greenpeace says that the Registrar has misread the accounts. Specifically, by adding up subheadings of foreign and local donations for some years and actual donations and interest from donations in others. "The reporting standards are different (for the RoS and FCRA) and hence our receipts are accounted under different heads, However, the entire receipts are reported accurately," said Greenpeace.
The organisation has also said that the filing of annual reports for 2004-05 and 2005-06 had been late because the RoS had not recognised the transfer of the Socities' registered office and hence refused to accept the report on time. For 2009-10, the reports were filed on time but they had been returned for correction by the RoS.
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