Updated: 09/03/2014 23:08 | By Agence France-Presse

India court tells government to unblock Greenpeace funds

An Indian court Wednesday told the new right-wing government to unblock funds of Greenpeace India after an intelligence report accused foreign-funded campaign groups of hurting Asia's third-largest economy.

India court tells government to unblock Greenpeace funds

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a speech during a visit to Tokyo, on September 2, 2014 - by Kazuhiro Nogi

In a major crackdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government tightened controls on foreign fund transfers into Greenpeace India's accounts in June.

The move came after an Indian Intelligence Bureau report accused activist groups of "stalling development projects" by protesting against power projects, mining and genetically modified food.

Greenpeace has insisted it functions transparently and in accordance with the law.

"The High Court's direction to the MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) throws light on the completely arbitrary manner in which the government has attempted to muzzle voices of dissent in a democracy in the name of financial scrutiny," Greenpeace India executive director Samit Aich said in a statement.

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.

The home ministry had instructed the central bank to get its approval before releasing funds from Netherlands-based Greenpeace International and the US-based Climate Works Foundation, two overseas contributors to Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace India took its case to the Delhi High Court last week after its bank denied it funds from Greenpeace International, citing lack of home ministry clearance.

Aich added that Greenpeace "is forced to believe the MHA is attempting to financially choke and discredit Greenpeace India in order to proceed smoothly with its pro-corporate agenda".

India's biggest corporate groups have flocked behind business-friendly Modi, whose right-wing government swept to power in May elections on a pledge to revive India's ailing economy.

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.

The court has given the home ministry two weeks to respond, before the next hearing on October 10. 

There was no immediate response from the home ministry when contacted by AFP on Wednesday.

In January, Indian energy group Essar said it would sue Greenpeace for defamation over a giant banner unfurled on the front of the conglomerate's headquarters that read "We kill forests".

Activists scaled the building in central Mumbai and unfurled the banner to protest at the company's mining plans in Madhya Pradesh state, which activists say will damage one of India's oldest forests.

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