2 Sep 2021 11:44 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice on two petitions challenging the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India notification dated May 18, 2021 that extends the date for compliance of of the specific provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act (FCRA), 2020. The cases were Vinay Vinayak Joshi v. Union of India and Jeevan Jyothi Charitable Trust and...
The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice on two petitions challenging the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India notification dated May 18, 2021 that extends the date for compliance of of the specific provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act (FCRA), 2020.
The cases were Vinay Vinayak Joshi v. Union of India and Jeevan Jyothi Charitable Trust and others v. Union of India.
Pursuant to the notification, the MHA has directed NGOs and individuals holding FCRA license to open bank accounts in the designated Branch of the State Of India at New Delhi latest by June 30, 2021 instead of the prior deadline of March 31, 2021. Furthermore, the MHA has also validated the license of these NGOs and individuals till September 2021 on the ground of Covid-19 exigency as many NGOs are currently involved in Covid-19 related relief work.
A Bench comprising Justices A.M Khanwilkar, Hrishikesh Roy and C.T Ravikumar on Thursday directed that the concerned standing counsels and central agencies are served notice and accordingly adjourned the matter to September 7. During an earlier hearing on July 12, Justice Sanjv Khanna had recused from hearing the matter as a result of which the matter had been transferred before the aforementioned Bench.
The plea sought the Court's leave to issue directions to the Union of India to not further extend the deadline for opening bank accounts under Section 17 of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 in the notified branch of State Bank of India, New Delhi. Furthermore, directions were also sought to ensure that the Centre does not extend the validity of registration certificates issued to the NGOs under the FCRA beyond September 30, 2021.
The plea alleged that various NGOs have been misusing the FCRA regime to siphon off funds obtained from abroad by taking undue advantage of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
"Peremptory reliefs being sought are imperative in order to protect the Sovereignty and Integrity of India, as FCRA seeks to regulate the foreign contributions or donations to organizations and individuals in India, and to curb such contribution which are being used against National Interest in violation of the provisions of the FCRA. Taking the advantage of the ongoing pandemic situation, some of the NGOs, by circumventing the provisions of FCRA, are misusing the funds, and therefore, it is imperative to strictly adhere to the timeline of 30.6.2021," plea contends.
Placing reliance on the Supreme Court case of Teesta Atul Seetalvad v. State Of Gujarat, the petitioner contended that in the past also, there have been many instances where cases of alleged misappropriation of funds by NGOs have been highlighted and acted upon.
"One of the areas where NGOs and individuals have been found (in past) utilizing funds obtained from abroad are for doing alleged activities of religious conversion in several remote parts of the Country. This sensitive issue is intermittently highlighted in the media, and therefore, the Writ Petitioner has a reasonable apprehension that in the shield of Covid relief work, such NGOs who are involved in activities of religious conversion, may try to divert funds for those activities. Therefore, keeping this in mind too, the timelines for compliance with the FCRA requirements do not deserve to be extended", the plea further alleged.
Thus, in order to restrain the NGOs from indulging in such 'dubious activities' to stall the implementation of the FCRA on the pretext of the ongoing pandemic, the petitioner sought the issuance of directions to the Centre and the Niti Ayog to strictly maintain and monitor the directory of the NGO's receiving foreign contributions in their concerned FCRA account & ensure full compliance of FCRA (Amendment) Act, 2020.
Apart from the above two petitions, the Court also issued notice on a petition(Noel Harper and Ors v. Union of India) challenging the Foreign Regulation Contributions Regulation (Amendment) Act 2020.
Click here to read/download the order