MHA alleges system hack in clearing NGO licenses
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated that it is likely that its computers have been hacked. This follows the decision of the ministry to grant FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act) licenses to three NGOs, whose cancelled licenses were recently renewed again online. The NGOs in question are Greenpeace, Teesta Setalvad's Sabrang Trust and Citizens of Justice and Peace (CPJ).
According to Greenpeace, its goal is to "ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity" and campaigns on issues related to the environment. Sabrang Communications is an organization that publishes the monthly 'Communalism Combat' magazine and runs 'KHOJ', a secular education program in Indian schools in Mumbai. Citizens for Peace and Justice (CPJ) fights communal disharmony through courts.
The Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA) governs which organizations can receive foreign donations and also monitor how these funds are used.
What happened with Greenpeace?
After having its licence permanently cancelled in September 2015, Greenpeace obtained an approval for Greenpeace India's registration under the FCRA. Executive director of the NGO, Ravi Chellam said that the renewed license was in effect from 1st November, 2016. Greenpeace India's license had been cancelled on the grounds that it was affecting public as well as economic interests.
The issue with Teesta Setalvad's organisations
One day after the license for the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace (CPJ) was renewed for five years, the MHA cancelled the same. The NGO Sabrang Trust's license was cancelled in June 2016. CPJ was put on a prior permission (PP) list which required it to obtain permission from MHA before receiving any contribution. The licenses for both were passed in August 2016.
Measures taken by the MHA
The Home Ministry on Wednesday asked the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) to examine the suspected hacking of its website. Apart from a security check by India's top cyber security experts, the ministry also ordered an audit and a manual review of all 13,000 licences renewed this year. According to government sources, "it is an apparent oversight by junior officials of FCRA division."
Zakir Naik's IRF
In August 2016, the MHA granted the FCRA license to Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation even when Naik was under investigation for allegedly motivating terrorism.