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Most NGOs don’t have SBI account

The SBI main branch at 11, Sansad Marg, New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

Only 16% registered NGOs have active bank accounts with the State Bank of India’s main branch in Delhi, a compulsory requirement to receive foreign funds from April 1, according to submission made by a non-governmental organisation in the Delhi High Court on Wednesday.

An Assam-based NGO has also moved the Gauhati High Court against another amended provision of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) that makes Aadhaar mandatory for opening and operating the account in Delhi.

Also read | FCRA amendments crippling our work, say NGOs

The Gauhati High Court on May 5 sent a notice to the SBI asking it to explain why Aadhaar was necessary to open a bank account, when in 2018, the Supreme Court in the K.S. Puttaswamy (Aadhaar) case had ruled that mandatorily linking Aadhaar to a bank account “does not satisfy the test of proportionality”.

According to the amended provisions of the FCRA enacted in September 2020, the NGOs registered under the Act were asked to open a designated bank account at the SBI, Delhi and compulsorily register the Aadhaar details of the chief functionaries, trustees and office-bearers.

The amendment stated that all the existing FCRA accounts of the NGOs will be linked to the SBI account in Delhi, and while they may not be able to receive fresh foreign funds from April 1 in the existing accounts, they could utilise the money that already exists in the old account.

Pandemic poses hurdles

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many NGOs could not complete the stringent paper work, making it impossible for foreign donors to send help during the second wave that has now spread to rural areas. Many said that they did not fulfil the eligibility criteria as they did not possess an Aadhaar card as a “matter of principle”.

Also read | FCRA rules hit overseas COVID aid to hospitals, NGOs

An Andhra Pradesh NGO that had moved the Delhi High Court last week seeking exemption from the March 31 deadline to open an account in Delhi, informed the court on Wednesday that out of the 22,457 NGOs with active FCRA licences, only 3,616 have active bank accounts with the SBI Main Branch, Delhi (NDMB).

The NGO said that despite applying before March 31, their papers were not processed.

“The court on Wednesday directed the Ministry to expedite the necessary approvals for opening the petitioners’ New Delhi FCRA account and has listed the matter for compliance in a week’s time,” said Abishek Jebaraj, the NGO’s counsel.

 

Three more Andhra NGOs have approached the court with the same plea.

The Assam NGO said in its petition that it applied for opening of an FCRA account in SBI, Delhi on March 9, before the March 31 deadline, but the application was not processed.

The Ministry of Home Affairs did not comment on whether the government was considering to extend the March 31 deadline.

Registered NGOs can receive foreign contribution under five purposes — social, educational, religious, economic and cultural. An FCRA registration is mandatory for NGOs to receive foreign funds. There are 22,591 FCRA-registered NGOs.


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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 10:38:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/most-ngos-dont-have-sbi-account/article34545936.ece

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