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Allegations levelled by Amnesty International

National Human Rights Commission, India takes suo motu cognizance of the matter and directs issuance of the notice to the Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi, calling for their comments on the allegations levelled by the Amnesty International as mentioned in the news report.

According to media reports that the complete freezing of its India bank accounts the Amnesty International Organization in India has reportedly halted all the work in which it has been engaged in the country.

In a statement, the organization has stated that it has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work.

It is alleged that this is the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organizations by the Govt. of India over unfounded and motivated allegations.

The news report gives more details stating that on 22-10-19, Amnesty International testified at the US Congressional hearing on human rights in South Asia, with a specific focus on Jammu & Kashmir after the Indian Parliament on 5th August pushed through constitutional changes that divested Jammu & Kashmir of its special status and reorganized it into two Union Territories. On August, 28 the rights groups released an investigative brief on the complicity of the Delhi Police in the month of February, 2020. Amnesty International had claimed that 53 people had died in the riot while Delhi Police rebutted the claim saying that the report was lopsided, biased and malicious. Amnesty International has reportedly accused the government of suppressing the speech and demanded the release of activists Rona Wilson, Shoma Sen, Sudha Bhardwaj, Surendra Gadling and others who were arrested in connection with the January, 2018 caste clashes in Bhima-Koregaon near Pune in Maharashtra. It is also mentioned in the news report that this is the fifth time when Amnesty International is closing down its office in India.

The Union Home Ministry has reportedly mentioned in their statement that the stand taken by the Amnesty International is unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth. The organization has been accused of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violations, and “interference in domestic police debates” despite being funded by foreign donations.

The rights group has reportedly denied the financial violations charges and has stated that they have been in full compliance with all laws.

INVESTIGATION

It is further mentioned in the news report that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has been investigating the rights group since October, 2018 when they raided its office in Bengaluru and the accounts of the organization were frozen. In the year 2019, the Income Tax Department wrote to the office bearers of the organization seeking their clarifications on the subject. It is also mentioned that in November, 2019, CBI has filed a case against Amnesty International alleging that it has received Rs. 36 crore in funding without the mandatory permission required under the FCRA. The Investigative Agencies have also reportedly alleged that the fundraising model of Amnesty International India was in violation of FCRA that amounts to money laundering. The organization has also been blamed for its activities which are in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws. The organization has reportedly stated that their harassment by the government is a result of their unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi Police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in the Delhi riots and in Jammu & Kashmir. The charges of the organization have however been denied by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleging that the organization was raising funds from abroad in contravention of the Indian laws. They have also stated that there has been shifting money transfer to the companies and there is a suspected flow of money into the trust of Amnesty International.

The Commission has carefully examined the contents of the news report.

Amnesty International is a reputed non-governmental organization raising its voice globally whenever there is an incident of violation of the human rights of the people. The allegations levelled by the organization are serious in nature and have been strongly answered by the government agency. Any kind of difference of opinion may be a subject of investigation and decision by the competent court.

The Commission finds it necessary to go through the matter, analyse the facts and reach a conclusion in the interest of human rights friendly environment in the country.

The response is expected within six weeks.


NHRC

[Press Release dt. 30-09-2020]

Hot Off The PressNews

The stand taken and the statements made by Amnesty International are unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth.

The facts of the matter are as follows:

Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too twenty years ago (19.12.2000). Since then Amnesty International, despite its repeated applications, has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per law it is not eligible to get such an approval.

However, in order to circumvent the FCRA regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without MHA’s approval under FCRA. This mala fide rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions.

Owing to these illegal practices of Amnesty, the previous government had also rejected the repeated applications of Amnesty to receive funds from overseas. This had led Amnesty to suspend its India operations once during that period as well. This bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty, under different governments, makes it clear that the entire fault lies in the dubious processes adopted by Amnesty to secure funds for its operations.

All the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws. Such statements are also an attempt to extraneously influence the course of investigations by multiple agencies into the irregularities and illegalities carried out over the last few years.

Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organizations. However, India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well.

India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary and tradition of vibrant domestic debate. The people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government. Amnesty’s failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India.


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Press Release dt. 29-09-2020]

Amendments to existing lawsLegislation Updates

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 received Presidential Assent on 28-09-2020.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020

Why has the bill been proposed?

The annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution have not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under the said Act. Many of them were also found wanting in ensuring basic statutory compliances such as submission of annual returns and maintenance of proper accounts.

This has led to a situation where the Central Government had to cancel certificates of registration of more than 19,000 recipient organisations, including non-Governmental organisations, during the period between 2011 and 2019.

Therefore, there is a need to streamline the provisions of the said Act by strengthening the compliance mechanism, enhancing transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contribution worth thousands of crores of rupees every year and facilitating genuine non-Governmental organisations or associations who are working for the welfare of the society.

Highlights of the Bill are as follows:

Prohibition to accept foreign contribution [Section 3]

No foreign contribution shall be accepted by any public servant, Judge, Government servant or employee of any corporation or any other body controlled or owned by the Government.

Prohibition to transfer foreign contribution to other person [Section 7]

Now the bill proposes the prohibition to the transfer of foreign contribution to another person and the requirement of valid certificate has also been removed. i.e earlier a person could transfer to the person with a valid certificate, but that has been removed now.

Restriction to utilise foreign contribution for the administrative purpose [Section 8]

The foreign contributions received shall be used only up to 20% which earlier was 50%.

Registration of certain persons with Central Government [Section 11]

Only after the prior permission of the Central Government a person who is not registered shall accept the foreign contribution:

Provided that the Central Government, on the basis of any information or report, and after holding a summary inquiry, has reason to believe that a person who has been granted prior permission has contravened any of the provisions of this Act, it may, pending any further inquiry, direct that such person shall not utilise the unutilised foreign contribution or receive the remaining portion of foreign contribution which has not been received or, as the case may be, any additional foreign contribution, without prior approval of the Central Government:

Provided further that if the person referred to in sub-section (1) or in this sub-section has been found guilty.”.

Grant of Certificate of Registration [Section 12]

Every person who makes an application for grant of a certificate shall be required to open an FCRA Account in the manner mention in Section 17 Aand mention the details of such an account in his application.

Mandatory Aadhaar [Section 12 A] [New Section]

As an identification document for the purpose of this Act, Aadhaar number for all Office bearer or directors of all NGOs and other organization which is eligible for foreign contribution is mandatory. However, a passport or overseas citizen of India card is required in the case of foreign nationals.

Suspension of Certificate [Section 13]

Time limit for suspension of Certificate issued under FCRA has been stated to be as either 180 days or such further period not exceeding 180 days, as may be specified.

Surrender of Certificate [Section 14 A] [New Section]

If the Central Government is satisfied after inquiry as it deems fit, it can permit a person to surrender the certificate.

Foreign Contribution through Scheduled Bank [Section 17]

Now, under this provision, every person who has been granted a certificate or prior permission under Section 12 shall receive foreign contribution only in an account designated as “FCRA Account” which shall be opened by him in such branch of the State Bank of India at New Delhi.

Along with the above stated key highlights, amendments under Section 15 and 16 have also been made which can be referred to in the bill below.

Please read the Act here: ACT 


Ministry of Law and Justice

Legislation UpdatesStatutes/Bills/Ordinances

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020

Lok Sabha passed the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 on 21-09-2020.

Why has the bill been proposed?

The annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution have not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under the said Act. Many of them were also found wanting in ensuring basic statutory compliances such as submission of annual returns and maintenance of proper accounts.

This has led to a situation where the Central Government had to cancel certificates of registration of more than 19,000 recipient organisations, including non-Governmental organisations, during the period between 2011 and 2019.

Therefore, there is a need to streamline the provisions of the said Act by strengthening the compliance mechanism, enhancing transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contribution worth thousands of crores of rupees every year and facilitating genuine non-Governmental organisations or associations who are working for the welfare of the society.

Highlights of the Bill are as follows:

Prohibition to accept foreign contribution [Section 3]

No foreign contribution shall be accepted by any public servant, Judge, Government servant or employee of any corporation or any other body controlled or owned by the Government.

Prohibition to transfer foreign contribution to other person [Section 7]

Now the bill proposes the prohibition to the transfer of foreign contribution to another person and the requirement of valid certificate has also been removed. i.e earlier a person could transfer to the person with a valid certificate, but that has been removed now.

Restriction to utilise foreign contribution for the administrative purpose [Section 8]

The foreign contributions received shall be used only up to 20% which earlier was 50%.

Registration of certain persons with Central Government

[Section 11]

Only after the prior permission of the Central Government a person who is not registered shall accept the foreign contribution:

Provided that the Central Government, on the basis of any information or report, and after holding a summary inquiry, has reason to believe that a person who has been granted prior permission has contravened any of the provisions of this Act, it may, pending any further inquiry, direct that such person shall not utilise the unutilised foreign contribution or receive the remaining portion of foreign contribution which has not been received or, as the case may be, any additional foreign contribution, without prior approval of the Central Government:

Provided further that if the person referred to in sub-section (1) or in this sub-section has been found guilty.”.

Grant of Certificate of Registration [Section 12]

Every person who makes an application for grant of a certificate shall be required to open an FCRA Account in the manner mention in Section 17 Aand mention the details of such an account in his application.

Mandatory Aadhaar [Section 12 A] [New Section]

As an identification document for the purpose of this Act, Aadhaar number for all Office bearer or directors of all NGOs and other organization which is eligible for foreign contribution is mandatory. However, a passport or overseas citizen of India card is required in the case of foreign nationals.

Suspension of Certificate [Section 13]

Time limit for suspension of Certificate issued under FCRA has been stated to be as either 180 days or such further period not exceeding 180 days, as may be specified.

Surrender of Certificate [Section 14 A] [New Section]

If the Central Government is satisfied after inquiry as it deems fit, it can permit a person to surrender the certificate.

Foreign Contribution through Scheduled Bank [Section 17]

Now, under this provision, every person who has been granted a certificate or prior permission under Section 12 shall receive foreign contribution only in an account designated as “FCRA Account” which shall be opened by him in such branch of the State Bank of India at New Delhi.

Along with the above stated key highlights, amendments under Section 15 and 16 have also been made which can be referred to in the bill below.

Please read the bill here: BILL


Lok Sabha

Hot Off The PressNews

As reported by media, Ministry of Home Affairs sets up an Inter-Ministerial panel set up to probe violations by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust and Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.

“MHA sets up inter-ministerial committee to coordinate investigations into violation of various legal provisions of PMLA, Income tax Act, FCRA etc by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust & Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust . Special Director of ED will head the committee.”

         — MHA


Media Reports