The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to entertain a plea seeking an interim relief to allow the continuation of FCRA licenses of nearly 6,000 NGOs, which were only valid till September end last year. The Centre's counsel wondered why a Houston-based association is interested in this matter.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, representing the US-based NGO Global Peace Initiative, submitted that there are thousands of NGOs, which are doing good work for the society. Global Peace Initiative, an organisation incorporated in the US, has an office in India and Dr. K.A. Paul, represents the organisation here.
A bench headed by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre whether he has got instructions in the matter?
Mehta pointed at the time limit for the renewal, and added that nearly 11,000 NGOs applied for Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licenses renewal within the cut-off date and it has been extended.
He said the government is well aware of the situation and wondered what is the purpose of this PIL. Mehta said: "Why a Houston-based person is so interested in Chhattisgarh. We are here for them..." Hedge added that nearly 6,000 NGOs have not applied.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Rajkumar said: "If those 6,000 NGOs have not applied under the present regime, they have chosen not to continue in the current regime," Mehta reiterated, "How is the Houston-based association concerned?"
The bench said that the petitioner can move a representation before the authorities concerned, with suggestions and the authorities may consider it.
The bench, in its order, said: "In the light of this stand taken by the authorities, we don't intend to pass any interim order as prayed. If the petitioners have any other suggestion, they may file a representation before the authorities which may be considered on its own merits by the authorities".
The petition, filed by the NGO and others, challenged the Central government's decision to refuse renewal of FCRA licenses of close to 6,000 NGOs.
The plea has stated, "The work done by these NGOs helped millions of Indians. The sudden and arbitrary cancellation of FCRA registration of thousands of these NGOs violates the rights of the organizations, their workers as well as the millions of Indians who they serve. This is especially relevant at a time when the country is facing the third wave of the Covid-19 virus."
The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha on September 20, 2020, which amended FCRA Act, 2010. The Act regulates the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution by individuals, associations, and companies.
The plea claimed the FCRA Amendment Act, 2020 significantly hampered their activities and operations.