Bipin Bihari Mallick, Additional Secretary and seniormost officer in the Foreigners Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which handles foreign contributions of NGOs, was unexpectedly removed from his post on Friday.
The charge was given to Sanjeevanee Kutty, the seniormost IAS officer in the MHA after Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi. Kutty was earlier posted as Secretary (Border Management).
Mallick, meanwhile, remains in the MHA, but as Additional Secretary (Disaster Management).
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MHA sources said that behind the move was the ministry’s decision to put US-based donor Compassion International (CI) in the prior permission (PP) category, which led to protests from US lawmakers. A donor in the PP category cannot directly transfer funds to NGOs and has to seek clearance from the MHA each time. CI has an annual budget of nearly Rs 290 crore for India.
In its order passed in March this year, the MHA had alleged that CI, a Christian charity organisation, was engaged in religious conversions. The matter was escalated between the MEA and MHA after US authorities, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, took it up. It was also raised during a recent hearing in Washington, where US Congressmen expressed concerns and CI threatened to pull out of India.
Mallick, a 1986-batch IAS officer who was in-charge of the MHA Foreigners Division, was petitioned by the US embassy in India on behalf of the NGO earlier this week, following which he sought details from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) regarding the charges of conversion against CI. It was based on IB reports that the MHA had put it on the watchlist, officials said.
On Thursday, Mallick invited CI representatives for a hearing. However, before the hearing could take place, he was removed and transferred to the Disaster Management wing.
A Maharashtra-cadre IAS officer, Mallick recently cleared the cancellation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence of Lawyers Collective, an NGO run by lawyer and former Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising. Mallick was also instrumental in suspension of FCRA licence of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) — Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s NGO — and initiated action against one of Naik’s other NGOs.
This is the second time a senior officer in charge of the FCRA division has been shunted out. Earlier, IAS officer G K Dwivedi, joint secretary in the Foreigners Division, was suspended after it emerged that the FCRA licence of the IRF had been renewed despite an ongoing probe. His suspension was later revoked.