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Unaccounted flow of funds to NGOs a ‘major problem’: SC

"This is a major problem. They are getting money from all over the world. Mind-boggling..." Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur observed.

Noting that NGOs get “mind-boggling” funds and it has become a “major problem,” the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it will consider asking the Law Commission of India to bring an effective law to regulate the flow of money to a total 29.99 lakh NGOs functioning in the country.

“This is a major problem. They are getting money from all over the world. Mind-boggling...” Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur observed.

The Bench, also comprising Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, asked senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi to assist the court in finding a way to deal with the issue and, if necessary, refer to the Law Commission. “We can refer to the Law Commission to bring a law to control the NGOs... at least for the future, we want to know whether we can do some exercise to regulate these organisations,” the CJI observed, posting the case for urgent hearing on Monday next. Advocate M.L. Sharma, the petitioner in the case, submitted that 80 per cent of the NGOs get foreign funds.

He claimed that “retired government employees and politicians run these NGOs drawing on their influence.”

To this, the CJI reacted: “What is an NGO? Anyone can register a society and it becomes an NGO... There is no legal brain work done at the Central level to control them. Unless some mechanism is put in place centrally, nothing can be done.”

The CBI records filed in the Supreme Court in the case show that only 2,90,787 NGOs file annual financial statements of a total of 29,99,623 registered ones under the Societies Registration Act. In some States, the CBI said the laws do not even provide for the NGOs to be transparent about their financial dealings.

In the Union Territories, of a total of 82,250 NGOs registered and functioning, only 50 file their returns.

Highest number of NGOs

New Delhi has the highest number of registered NGOs among the Union Territories at 76,566. But none of these organisations submit returns, the CBI chart showed. In Kerala, which has 3,69,137 NGOs, there is no legal provision to submit returns. The same is the case for Punjab with 84,752 and Rajasthan with 1.3 lakh NGOs.

Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest number of NGOs at 5.48 lakh among 26 States, has only about 1.19 lakh filing returns. Tamil Nadu has about 1.55 lakh NGOs registered, however, only 20,277 file returns. Andhra Pradesh has 2.92 lakh NGOs, but only 186 file financial statements annually. West Bengal has 2.34 lakh registered NGOs, of which only 17,089 active NGOs file annual returns.

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