Delhi High Court upholds suspension of FCRA nod for rights body

MHA had cited several violations of the Act by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

Updated - February 16, 2022 03:23 am IST

Published - February 16, 2022 03:22 am IST - New Delhi

Delhi High Court. File

Delhi High Court. File | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

The Delhi High Court has refused to interfere with the decision of the Centre to suspend the registration of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) for alleged violations of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

Justice V. Kameswar Rao said the June 7, 2021 order of the Union Home Ministry “suspending the petitioner (CHRI) is in consonance with the object which the instant legislation/ statute strives to achieve and has not gone in excess of that object”.

Last year, the CHRI had moved the court challenging the order passed by the Ministry, suspending its registration for 180 days. CHRI’s counsel had argued that the suspension order was contrary to the framework of the scheme set out under the Act and even the suspension was passed without initiating any inquiry and it was liable to be set aside.

The NGO had said that the suspension order was “unreasonable, manifestly arbitrary, excessive and disproportionate, on the face of it being based on wholly incorrect facts and for violating basic principles of natural justice”.

The Central government had in its suspension order said that the activities or projects for which foreign contribution has been received and utilised have not been given in the prescribed format for the FYs 2018- 2019. It said that a bank account opened in Bank of India, New Delhi was not intimated online to the Ministry and there was a flow of foreign contribution in this bank account. It also stated that one utilisation account through which the CHRI has been utilizing foreign contribution has not been intimated in Annual Returns for the FYs 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

Additionally, CHRI has refunded some foreign contributions to the donor in violation of FCRA, the Centre had said.

“Suffice to state, there is nothing in the provision to show that these violations cannot be construed as reasons which weighed with the Central Government, to suspend the certificate,” the High Court said.

“Surely, if the violation makes a strong prima facie case against the certificate holder, if proved, would lead to cancellation of certificate under Section 14(2), then the Central Government will be justified in suspending the certificate,” it added.

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