SC turns down plea to extend lapsed FCRA license of around 6,000 NGOs
The Government of India on Tuesday 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 organizations that were valid as of 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 the 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 judgment is pronounced on a batch of pleas, including those which have raised issues concerning the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2020.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the Houston-based NGO said they have the information which is available in the 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 for those who have applied, their 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 the 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 organizations till December 31, 2021. On January 1, the number came down to 16,829. These are considered “live” organizations. The officials had said the FCRA licenses of 18,778 organizations were expiring between September 29, 2020, and December 31, 2021. Out of them, as many as 12,989 organizations have applied for renewal of the FCRA license between September 30, 2020, and December 31, 2021. Since 5,789 organizations did not apply for the renewal of the FCRA license, they were deemed to have ceased to be registered organizations, an official had said.
In addition to them, renewal applications of 179 organizations were also rejected by the Home Ministry due to different reasons.
[with PTI inputs]
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