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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Genuine NGOs need not shy away from regulatory compliance: Centre to SC

The government said it recognises the role of NGOs and voluntary organisations in national development and “genuine NGOs need not shy away from any regulatory compliance mandated under the...Act.”

By: Express News Service |
Updated: October 22, 2021 5:28:06 am
The Supreme Court of India. (File)

THERE IS no fundamental right to receive unbridled foreign contributions without any regulation, the Centre has told Supreme Court, defending amendments made last year to the 2010 Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

In an affidavit filed on Wednesday in the court, which is seized of three petitions in the matter – two against the amendments and one seeking their stricter implementation — the Union Home Ministry said that “in fact, there exists no fundamental right under which any right, legal or otherwise, can be said to include the purported right to receive foreign contributions”.

Parliament, representing the will of the people, has made the Act, laying down a clear legislative policy of strict controls over foreign contributions for certain activities in the country, and there exists no right to receive any foreign contribution outside the framework designed by Parliament and implemented by the executive, it said.

The government said it recognises the role of NGOs and voluntary organisations in national development and “genuine NGOs need not shy away from any regulatory compliance mandated under the…Act.”

The government said foreign contributions, considering their nature and vast expanse of abuse, are a tightly regulated and controlled means and that it is well within its rights to make changes to effectively implement the objectives set by Parliament.

On the provision requiring the office-bearers, key functionaries and members to furnish their Aadhaar numbers, the affidavit said this “would facilitate proper identification of person and associations with which the persons are connected for facilitating monitoring of activities of associations which should not be detrimental to the national interest and hence the restrictions are reasonable and proportionate”.

Explaining the difficulties faced in the operation of the 2010 law, it said as per the erstwhile Section 17 of the Act, NGOs could receive foreign contributions in an exclusive bank account of their choice in any bank in India.

As these FCRA accounts were opened in hundreds of branches spread across the country, difficulty was being experienced in monitoring inflow and outflow of foreign contributions from these accounts and also during the audit process, it said.

Although details of inward remittances and their further utilisation are disclosed by the NGOs in the Annual Return, yet inflow and outflow details at a particular point in time, association-wise as well as cumulatively for all the organisations, could not be gathered and monitored due to scattered distribution of these FCRA accounts across the country, the affidavit said. It added that Section 17 was therefore amended, and NGOs have now been mandated to open an FCRA account in the State Bank of India, New Delhi Main Branch, to receive foreign contribution.

It rejected concerns raised by the petitioners about the physical access to the bank as “unfounded and misleading”. It said “for outstation FCRA organisations located in remote areas…, MHA and State Bank of India have put in place a system to enable the NGOs to open the main designated FCRA account in SBI, New Delhi Main Branch without any need to physically come to Delhi”.

The Centre also contended that “the question as to the requirement or the need of a law in the nature of FCRA and the impugned amendments, is inherently a political question and cannot be adjudicated before the Hon’ble Courts”.

“It is submitted that Hon’ble Courts in jurisdictions across the world have denied adjudicating upon such political questions,” it said.

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