Centre has justified FCRA non-renewal for NGOs in Supreme Court

NGOs have no fundamental right to receive ‘unbridled foreign contributions’, Centre told Supreme Court recently

Updated - December 30, 2021 01:18 am IST

Published - December 29, 2021 08:46 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

NEW DELHI, 09/04/2013: Supreme Court of India in New Delhi on April 10,  2013. 
Photo: S. Subramanium

NEW DELHI, 09/04/2013: Supreme Court of India in New Delhi on April 10, 2013. Photo: S. Subramanium

The non-renewal of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) registration of the Missionaries of Charity citing “audit irregularities” comes shortly after a line of argument made by the government in the Supreme Court recently that NGOs have no fundamental right to receive “unbridled foreign contributions”.

The government, through the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), was justifying amendments made to the FCRA in 2020. Petitioners had contended in court that the amendments were choking the flow of foreign funds to NGOs engaged in philanthropic activities in India. “There exists no fundamental right to receive unbridled foreign contributions without any regulation... There is no question of fundamental rights being violated through controls of acceptance of foreign contributions by certain types of organisations as the said organisations or individuals are always open to operate with locally secured funds and achieve their expectations... Foreign contributions, considering their nature and vast expanse of abuse, area tightly and controlled means...” the MHA argued in court in a 90-page affidavit.

The government, in November, had also red-flagged the use of foreign funds to finance activities detrimental to national security and interests.

The strong stand had even prompted the court to specifically ask why the MHA was involved in the FCRA as the nodal Ministry.

To this, the government had referred to intelligence inputs which indicated that money from abroad was being used to feed activities meant to destabilise national peace and security; it was even going to the Naxals.

“There is an element of national security, integrity of the nation involved here... Every transaction is watched by the MHA, from the very beginning,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had described the MHA’s responsibility.

Mr. Mehta had said the FCRA amendments had been introduced to “strengthen the mechanism, enhance transparency and accountability”. He had said it was noticed before the amendments came that only a miniscule portion of the foreign funds were actually used by NGOs for their registered objectives.

The amendments had helped the government keep watch and ensure that NGOs were getting and spending foreign contributions for the “definite programmes” spelt out in their articles of association.

“Once you [NGOs] get hundreds of crores of Rupees as foreign funds, it has to be known that the money is being used for these purposes alone,” Mr. Mehta submitted.

He had informed the court in the hearing that the registration of 19,000 NGOs had been cancelled for violating the law.

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