Why is UNHCR insisting India to revise FCRA regulations?

The United Nations high Commissioner for human rights is insisting India to revise its foreign contribution Regulation Act 2010.

 Highlights

The high Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has raised concerns over the restrictions imposed by India over foreign funding for the Non-governmental organisations. The commisioner also raised concerns on the arrests of activists in the country.

 What is the issue?

In September 2020, the union home ministry of India notified new FCRA rules on foreign funding. This was done by making amendments to the FCRA act. The provisions of the amendments made were as follows

  • It empowers the Government of India to restrict the usage of foreign contribution.
  • The foreign contribution must be received only to accounts that are designated as fcra account full stop the account shall be opened only in banks that are nominated by the Government of India for this purpose.
  • Not more than 20 % of the foreign funds received shall be used for administrative expenses. Earlier that is before the amendment it was 50%.
  • The public servants cannot receive foreign contributions.
  • The election candidates, publisher of a newspaper, members of Legislature, political parties are others who cannot receive foreign contribution.
  • Aadhaar is mandatory for all persons receiving foreign contribution as an identification document.

FCRA Catch 22

The recent amendment of the act gives unbridled powers to the home ministry to disqualify any Non- governmental organisation or Association. It can deny renewal of the organisation under the Recent amendments.

Catch 22 is circumstances under which there is no escape as it is mutually conflicting.

India’s stand

The Government of India has made the amendments to the act in order to streamline the the inflow of foreign currency. The annual inflow of foreign contribution in the name of Non governmental organisations has almost doubled between 2010 and 2019. However these contributions were not utilised for the same purpose for which they were registered or granted permission.

The union home ministry recently suspended the licences of six non-governmental organisations as they used foreign contributions for religious conversion.

Such uncontrolled inflow of foreign funds for illegal and unethical practices could affect the internal security of the country. Thus, the amendment were made to enhance the transparency and accountability of foreign contributions.

Concerns of United Nations Human Rights

According to the United Nations no law should delegitimize or criminalize activities based on origin of funding. The United Nations is also of the opinion that the amendment failed to comply with India’s constitutional provisions and legal obligations towards protection of rights to freedom of expression, Association and freedom of assembly.

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