FCRA licence: No foreign funding clearance for 6,000 NGOs for now
The Supreme Court today refused to grant interim relief on a plea challenging the government's refusal to renew licenses needed to receive funding from abroad to 6,000 Non-Governmental Organisations, or NGOs.
The court was hearing a plea filed by the US-based NGO Global Peace Initiative that said the cancellation of licences can have a debilitating effect on Covid-19 relief efforts as the country is battling its third wave of infections and the work done by many of these NGOs has helped millions of Indians so far.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar took note of the Centre's submission that 11,594 NGOs that applied for renewal within the deadline have already been given an extension.
Extended FCRA registration of 11,594 NGOs which applied within cut-off date, Centre tells SC
The Centre told the Supreme Court that Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registrations of 11,594 NGOs, which applied within the cut-off date, have already been extended.
Taking note of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta's submission, a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar refused to pass an interim direction that FCRA registrations of all organisations that were valid as on September 30 last year ought to be continued until further orders.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, said the petitioners are free to make representation to the concerned authorities which may be considered on its merits in accordance with law.
The FCRA registration is mandatory for any association and NGO to receive foreign funding.
Mehta told the top court that 11,594 NGOs had applied within the cut-off date and their registrations have been extended for the time being.
The apex court, which is seized of a plea filed by a US-based NGO seeking quashing of the Centre's alleged decision by which 5,789 entities lost their FCRA registration, was dealing with arguments regarding interim relief in the matter.
While referring to Mehta's submission, the top court said that in light of the stand taken by the authorities, it doesn't intend to pass such interim direction as prayed.
The bench said the petition would be listed after the judgement is pronounced on a batch of pleas, including those which have raised issues concerning the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2020.
During the arguments, the bench asked Mehta whether the names of those, who have applied for FCRA registration, are displayed online in the public domain.
Mehta said he doesn't have instruction regarding this.
He said the petitioner organisation is based in Houston.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioners, said they have the information which is available in public domain as per which there are around 6,000 NGOs whose registrations have not been extended for whatever reasons.
The bench told Hegde that the Solicitor General has submitted that those who have applied, there registration has been extended.
If those 6,000 NGOs have chosen not to apply for registration, that means they do not want to continue in the present regime, the bench observed.
Mehta told the bench how a Houston-based association is concerned with this.
Please forget Houston-based, Hegde said.
When Hegde said the court could make clear that for next two weeks or so, people can apply, the bench said, That we will not grant here .
The bench said the petitioners can make representation before the authorities which may be considered by them.
There were 22,762 FCRA-registered organisations till December 31, 2021.
On January 1, the number came down to 16,829. These are considered "live" organisations.
The officials had said the FCRA licences of 18,778 organisations were expiring between September 29, 2020 and December 31, 2021.
Out of them, as many as 12,989 organisations have applied for renewal of the FCRA licence between September 30, 2020 and December 31, 2021.
Since 5,789 organisations did not apply for the renewal of the FCRA licence, they were deemed to have ceased to be registered organisations, an official had said.
In addition to them, renewal application of 179 organisations were also rejected by the Home Ministry due to different reasons.