FCRA and the Issue of Amnesty International

Authored By:

Harsh Mangal(Research Intern)

The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) was originally passed by the parliament in 1976 and then was modified in 2010. This act was passed by the parliament in order to keep a check on foreign funding provided to the NGOs by certain individuals or organizations. This act is important in order to provide transparency to the activities of NGOs and to curb the irregularities in their funding. A transparent mechanism is important and necessary in order to discourage any detrimental activity which can go against the national interest,

Recently FCRA Amendment Bill, 2020 is passed by both the houses of the parliament.

According to this amendment bill-

- Public Servants were included in the ambit of entities that were prohibited from accepting foreign funds.

- This act restricts sub-granting or transfer of foreign funds to any other person or association.

- NGOs can use only 20% of foreign funding for administrative purposes. Earlier this limit was 50%.

- Aadhar card is necessary for receiving funds.

- It becomes mandatory that all the foreign contributions come to one particular branch of SBI in New Delhi.

- This bill also gives power to the government to suspend the FCRA license of the organisation for more than 180 days.

Many NGOs claims, that these steps will go against them and will press their voice which they offer in favour of the weaker section of the society and will silence their voices against the human rights violation. But according to the government, it is in the best interest of the Nation and is an important step from the point of view of National security.

Amnesty International is a London based Human Rights Organisation, which also operates in India. Recently it was found that Amnesty International India violates certain provisions of FCRA, and thus all of its bank accounts were frozen. After this Amnesty International India announced that they are going to shut down all their offices in India, and they claimed that government of India is on a “witch-hunt” against them and is forcing them to stop their operations.

After this, on 29th September 2020, a clarification came from the Ministry of Home Affairs, in which they said that Amnesty International got approval under FCRA only once and that too in 2000, which means 20 years ago. After that, they never got the approval under the law by any of the government as they were not eligible for the approval under the Indian laws.

According to the home ministry, Amnesty UK remitted a large sum of money to four different organisations, in order to escape the regulations of FCRA this amount was classified as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). And a large amount of money was also transferred to Amnesty India without the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs under FCRA. Home Ministry also clarified that Amnesty International is free to continue humanitarian work in India, but they should adhere to the law of the nation and country’s law does not allow any foreign interference.

Keeping a check on foreign funding is important as India is a sovereign country, and should not allow any foreign entity to interfere in their political functions. We have often seen that certain NGOs use this foreign funding to engage in mass lobbying and interfering in domestic politics. These funds could also be used for organizing illegitimate protests in order to delay a certain project of the government. So it is important for a country like India to keep a check and to keep a record of all the suspected foreign activities, which could be a threat to the National security.

Legit Originals: Volume 1, Issue 2(October 2020)

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