The Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday cancelled the FCRA licence of activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Citizen for Justice and Peace, a day after it emerged that the licence had been renewed for five years. The ministry also ordered an internal inquiry into what led to the renewal of the licence.
The Indian Express on Tuesday reported the renewal of the FCRA licence of the NGO, which was under the scanner for alleged misuse of grants to survivors of 2002 Gujarat riots and was put under the “prior permission” category in July last year.
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Officials said during scrutiny it was found that FCRA licences for US NGO Greenpeace and Setalvad’s second NGO, Sabrang Trust, had also been renewed “inadvertently” for five years.
A senior ministry official said, “The renewal of FCRA licence of Teesta’s NGOs Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust, IRF and Greenpeace stands cancelled with immediate effect, meaning thereby that the NGOs can no more receive foreign grants.”
Ministry sources said the process for renewal of licences of the three NGOs started in August, around the same time the licence for Zakir Naik’s IRF was cleared.
The ministry also launched a probe by the Computer Emergency Response Team, suspecting a major security breach by hackers who may have access to government data related to NGOs under scrutiny.
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi is learnt to have ordered a review of the recent renewal of FCRA registration of 13,000 NGOs, said officials. Mehrishi is believed to have directed that all sensitive cases of NGOs red-flagged by agencies will now be handled by a joint secretary-level officer and the files will be made ‘read-only’, allowing only a senior officer to change the status.
As per ministry records, the licences of Greenpeace India and Sabrang Trust had been cancelled, while the FCRA account for Citizens for Justice and Peace was put in prior permission category, preventing it from receiving foreign funds without the government’s permission.
In its December 13 order, the ministry said, “The competent authority in the MHA has, in exercise of the powers under section 32 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, decided to revise the renewal order to renew the FCRA registration of CJP, Mumbai. The renewal order shall be non-estab-initio.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Javed Anand, main trustee of Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust said, “We plan to take legal action and challenge the cancellation order.”
Teesta is secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace. Her two other NGOs, Sabrang Trust and Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd, are being probed by CBI and Gujarat Police.
It may be recalled that in September, the ministry had suspended its joint secretary incharge of FCRA wing G K Dwivedi along with three junior officers after an “automatic renewal” of Zakir Naik’s IRF. The government later cancelled the licence after declaring the NGO an “unlawful” organisation under an anti-terror law.