National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs on a complaint alleging “draconian approach” of the Centre in the renewal of Foreign Contribution Regulation ACT (FCRA) license of a non-governmental organisation. “The 7th Human Rights Defender Forum Colombo, Sri Lanka, has informed the Commission to intervene in the FCRA license non-renewal of Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (CPSC),” said an NHRC release on Wednesday.
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“Such a systematic attack on rights of Human Rights Defenders and on fundamental rights of the association and assembly as enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution has also been brought to notice of the Commission,” it said. UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly in his local analysis of FCRA 2010 had submitted a report of the Government of India in 2016 arguing that FCRA was not in conformity with international law, principles and standards as access to resources including foreign funding is a fundamental part of the right to freedom of association under the international laws, standards and principles, it said.
“Moreover, limitations placed on access to foreign funding will have to pass the litmus tests prescribed by law, imposed solely to protect national security, public order, public health, morals or rights and freedoms of others and necessary in a democratic society such as rights and freedoms of others”, the Commission said.
Prima facie it appears FCRA license non-renewal is neither legal nor objective and thereby impinging on the rights of the human rights defenders both in access to funding including foreign funding, it added.
NHRC said it has taken suo-motu cognisance of the case and directed Secretary to MHA to inform it within a period of six weeks about the number of NGOs of Human Rights Defenders who have not been allowed renewal of the license, the amount received by them from foreign funding during the last three years and the reason for non-renewal.
It also asked the MHA secretary to point out in case of Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns how the litmus test laid down by the UN Special Rapporteur was applied in the adjudication by the Central government.
After going through the MHA secretary’s submission, the Commission said it may decide to hear oral presentation about the allegation of draconian approach and the correctives the Government of India was contemplating, the release said.
It also directed the government under section 12(d) of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, to furnish the information to help NHRC take up hearing of the matter and to arrive at whether the review of the law can be recommended.