UN experts call on India to repeal FCRA
United Nations experts called on India to repeal Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), saying its provisions were used by government to "silence" groups that are critical of its policies. FCRA, the experts claimed was being used to obstruct civil society's access to foreign funding. This comes against the backdrop of recent suspension of permission given to Indira Jaising-led Lawyers Collective, for violation of FCRA.
What is FCRA?
Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act was enacted with the primary purpose of regulating the inflow of foreign contributions and ensuring that the received foreign contributions are not utilized for purposes other than those specified under the legislation. All charitable organizations in India receiving foreign contributions come under the purview of this Act. Violations of the act can result up to five years of imprisonment.
FCRA licenses revoked for 13,700 NGOs
14,000 NGOs, both Indian and foreign, have had their FCRA licences revoked since the current government came to power. The government had also suspended the registration of Greenpeace India under the FCRA for six months earlier in April 2015. Most recently,the Home Ministry issued an order saying that the central government has cancelled the permanent registration of Sabrang Trust run by Teeata Stelvad.
UN rapporteur critiques FCRA
Maina Kiai, UN special rapporteur, crtiqued India's FCRA law. Kiai, in a legal analysis of FCRA submitted to the government, stated that the Act and its rules are in violation of international law, and standards regarding freedom of association. Kiai noted that the ability of civil society organisations to access resources, including foreign funding, is a fundamental part of right to freedom of association.
India is party to ICCPR
Right to freedom of association is granted under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which India is a party to since 1979.
Suspension of Lawyers Collective registration for 6 months
The suspension on Lawyers Collective for 6 months was imposed on the basis of allegations that its founders, human rights lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, violated FCRA provisions by using foreign funding for purposes other than intended.
UN experts call the FCRA provisions vague
The U.N. experts said use of the FCRA was "overly broad" and activities deemed political or against the economic interest of the state were vague. They singled out the treatment of the Lawyers Collective and said, "human rights defenders and civil society must have the ability to do their important job without being subjected to increased limitations on their access to foreign funding."