The Supreme Court on Tuesday listed the matter for October 5, regarding a petition challenging the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India’s notification dated May 18, 2021, which extended the date for compliance of specific provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2020.
A three-judge Bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Hrishikesh Roy and C.T. Ravikumar were hearing the petition filed by Noel Harper of NGO Care And Share Charitable Trust.
Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan appeared for Harper, while ASG Sanjay Jain appeared for the Union government. The NGO has been accorded more time to adhere with provisions of the FCRA, 2020.
The ASG referred to Section 50 of FCRA, 2010 and submitted that it was assumed that the petitioner has assailed the constitutional validity of the act, they cannot challenge such in vaccum.
Section 50 of FCRA ACT, 2010 provides power to the Central Government to exempt any organisation, any individual from the operation of all or any provision of the act, to revoke or modify such order, the central government deem fit, may exercise such power, by order which is in the interest of general public, subjected to such conditions.
Justice Khanwilkar asked the Union whether they want to file response to the Petition assailing such notification issued by Ministry of Home Affairs. To which, ASG Sanjay Jain asked initially 4 weeks time to file it. Later on, it was limited to 3 weeks.
The Bench also inquired that whether the Petitioner has grievance w.r.t the amendment act 2020, to which the counsel of Noel Harper submitted that extension of validity of registration certificates issued under The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010 expiring or expired during 29th September 2020 and 31st May 2021 to 31st May 2021.
Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan submitted to the Bench, “penal consequences to be followed against Union if I cannot open my bank account in New Delhi Branch” and asked interim relief to be given to NGOs. The Bench submitted to counsel of NGOs that what exactly timeline given to you. Nothing to be stayed then.
As per Ministry of Home Affairs Notification dated 18th of May 2021, it clarifies that for ensuring smooth transition to amended FCRA regime, the central government has exercised the powers by virtue of section 50 of FCRA Act, 2010, thus decided to extend the deadline of expiring registration certificates and such will remain valid upto 30th September 2021.
NGOs in its writ Petition further prays that-
“Pursuant to the notification, the MHA has directed NGOs and individuals holding FCRA license to open bank accounts in the designated Branch of the State Of India at New Delhi latest by June 30, 2021 instead of the prior deadline of March 31, 2021. Furthermore, the MHA has also validated the license of these NGOs and individuals till September 2021 on the ground of Covid-19 exigency as many NGOs are currently involved in Covid-19 related relief work.”
Peremptory reliefs being sought are imperative in order to protect the Sovereignty and Integrity of India, as FCRA seeks to regulate the foreign contributions or donations to organizations and individuals in India, and to curb such contribution which are being used against National Interest in violation of the provisions of the FCRA. Taking the advantage of the ongoing pandemic situation, some of the NGOs, by circumventing the provisions of FCRA, are misusing the funds, and therefore, it is imperative to strictly adhere to the timeline of 30.6.2021,” plea contends.
FOREIGN CONTRIBUTION (REGULATION)AMENDMENT ACT, 2020
This amendment bill was brought into effect w.e.f. 29thSeptember 2020 and major changes were done in parent act FCRA ACT, 2020. Some sections were amended and some were inserted replacing the old provision of FCRA Act. 2010. Such Sections are – Section 3, Section 7, section 8 , section 12a, section 13, Section 14a Section 17.