The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Central Government, NITI Aayog and the NCPCR in a PIL filed by Vinay Vinayak Joshi, challenging the extension of timelines by MHA for complying with the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020. The Petitioner has contended that the extension will result in misappropriation of foreign funds received by various NGOs and individuals, which is detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of India.
In the PIL filed through AOR Gautam Jha and Advocate Pankaj Kumar, the Petitioner has alleged that several NGOs are misusing the FCRA regime to siphon off funds obtained from abroad, taking shield of the Covid pandemic. The Petitioner has contended that this will defeat the purpose of the Amendment Act, as reflected in the objections and reasons of the Act.
The Petitioner has cited the example of Teesta Seetalvad's case (Teesta Atul Seetalvad vs. State of Gujarat, Criminal Appeal No. 1099/2017) as an example of instances when foreign funds have been misappropriated by NGOs.
The Amendment Act came into force on September 29, last year. The Act, among other things, mandated each FCRA license holder to open a bank account in a nominated branch of State Bank of India in New Delhi. On representations made by several NGOs to extend the date for compliance with the new requirements under the Amendment Act, the same was initially extended by the MHA till March 31 and thereafter till June 30. The validity of the registration certificates of the NGOs was extended till September 2021. The MHA cited the exigencies arising out the pandemic and a need to facilitate a smooth transition to the new FCRA regime as reasons for the extension of time.
The Petitioner has alleged that some NGOs and individuals under cover of Covid relief work could be involved in the activities of religious conversion, flouting FCRA regulations. The Petitioner has arrayed the NCPCR as a party Respondent citing that NCPCR has been raising the issue of NGOs receiving funds from abroad and misusing it for purposes that are harmful to children. The Petitioner has sought a direction against the NCPCR to place on record all the steps taken by it regarding FCRA violations by NGOs concerning child rights.
A three-judge Bench comprising of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Hrishikesh Roy and C.T. Ravikumar has issued notice to the Respondents and directed them to file their reply within three weeks.
(Vinay Vinayak Joshi v. Union of India)