SC Starts Hearing Plea Against FCRA Changes

The Supreme Court on Friday began hearing a petition challenging the latest changes in the foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) which many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) say have squeezed their funds.

The changes have made it mandatory for all NGOs to have their primary bank account in Delhi and reduced the percentage of funds that can be used by them for administrative expenses from 50% to 20%.

Further, the purposes for which foreign contribution can be received have been restricted. These provisions have been challenged in SC. A bench led by Justice AM Khanwilkar is hearing the petition.

The Act has made it mandatory for all office-bearers of an NGO to show Aadhaar as them identification.

Bank KYC has also been linked to Aadhaar. Besides, the amended law has barred NGOs which received foreign funds from sub-granting the amounts they received to other NGOs which worked at the grassroots.

The plea was filed by Neol Harper of NGO Care and Share Charitable Trust.

The NGO has challenged sections 7, 12A, 12(1A) and 17 brought in by the 2020 amendments as ultra vires of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

The SC had earlier issued notices on the plea. In response, the Centre had claimed the right to life the liberty did not included the right to receive unregulated foreign regulations. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court the most NGOs had already complied with the regulations. Of the 23,000 registered NGOs, 19,000 had complied, he said.

Mehta defended the changes, saying they were required to ensure that there was proper utilization of funds coming into India. However, he sought more time form the court to defend the amendments. Appearing for the NGO, senior advocate Gopal Shankarnarayan argued the changes in the law had made it difficult for donors to donate to Indian NGOs. Further arguments in the case will continue after Diwali. S-ET

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