The Delhi High Court has allowed the NGO, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust to file its annual returns under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 offline, without registration with the NGO-DARPAN portal maintained by NITI Aayog, which mandatorily requires input of Aadhaar details.
The NGO receives foreign contributions from time to time and is registered under the FCRA. It is therefore required to file annual returns under Section 18 of FCRA read with Rule 17 of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules, 2011. The last date for filing annual returns for the Financial Year 2017-18 is December 31, 2018.
The notice was issued by Justice Vibhu Bakhru on the NGO’s plea challenging the constitutional validity of a notice issued in October last year, mandating NGOs receiving foreign contributions to electronically file their returns. The notice has essentially been challenged because it makes it compulsory for the officer bearers of an NGO to have an Aadhaar number, in order to register with the NGO-DARPAN portal.
The petition contends, “The Petitioner has been filing its Annual FCRA returns regularly. The Operation of the Impugned Notice read with the Rule 16 of the FCRR disallows the Petitioner from filing its Annual FCRA returns for the FY 2017-18, the last date for which is 31.12.2018 to the extent that it imposes illegal and unconstitutional conditions such as requiring its office bearers and/or trustees to furnish their Aadhaar details with Respondent No.2.”
The petitioner draws the attention of the court to the judgment passed by the Supreme Court in September this year, partially upholding the Aadhaar Act while making it clear that Aadhaar can be a mandatory requirement only for the purposes of Section 7 of the Act. The Apex Court had further clarified that requiring Aadhaar details by the State, without a purpose backed by law or by non-State entities would amount to a disproportionate invasion of the right to privacy and therefore, a violation of Articles 14,19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The petition then asserts that the FCRA portal is in violation of the Supreme Court judgment, and is “arbitrary and unreasonable and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India”.
Alleging violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, it contends, “…the requirement of submission of Aadhaar details, a requirement completely extraneous to the purposes of the FCRA is arbitrary, unreasonable, irrational and to the extent that persons who either do not possess Aadhaar or do not want to share their Aadhaar numbers are precluded from filing FCRA Annual Returns creates an unreasonable classification with no nexus whatsoever with the objectives of the FCRA and as such in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”
Therefore, while demanding quashing of the impugned notice, the petition also seeks consequential modification of the portal and condonation of delay in filing annual returns by the petitioner and similarly situated NGOs.
The petitioner NGO is being represented by Advocate Prasanna S. The respondent authorities were represented by Standing Counsel Ripu Dhaman Bhardwaj.