The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 25 January, declined to entertain a plea seeking interim relief to allow the continuation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licences of nearly 6,000 NGOs, which were only valid till September end last year.
The Centre's counsel wondered why a Houston-based association is interested in this matter.
Senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, representing the US-based NGO Global Peace Initiative, stated that there are thousands of NGOs that are doing good work for the society. Global Peace Initiative, an organisation incorporated in the US, has an office in India and Dr KA Paul represents the organisation here.
A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta representing the Centre, whether he has received any instructions in the matter.
Mehta pointed at the time limit for the renewal and added that nearly 11,000 NGOs applied for FCRA licence renewal within the cut-off date, which has been extended. He said the government is well aware of the situation and wondered what is the purpose of this PIL. He said: "Why is a Houston-based person so interested in Chhattisgarh? We are here for them." Hedge added that nearly 6,000 NGOs have not applied.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Rajkumar said, "If those 6,000 NGOs have not applied under the present regime, they have chosen not to continue in the current regime."
Mehta reiterated, "How is the Houston-based association concerned?"
The bench added that the petitioner can move a representation before the authorities concerned with suggestions, and the authorities may consider it.
The bench, in its order, also said, "In the light of this stand taken by the authorities, we don't intend to pass any interim order as prayed. If the petitioners have any other suggestion, they may file a representation before the authorities which may be considered on its own merits by the authorities."
The petition, filed by the NGO and others, challenged the Central government's decision to refuse the renewal of FCRA licenses of close to 6,000 NGOs.
The plea has stated, "The work done by these NGOs helped millions of Indians. The sudden and arbitrary cancellation of FCRA registration of thousands of these NGOs violates the rights of the organisations, their workers as well as the millions of Indians who they serve. This is especially relevant at a time when the country is facing the third wave of the COVID-19 virus."
The FCRA Bill, 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha on 20 September, which amended FCRA Act, 2010. The act regulates the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution by individuals, associations, and companies.
The plea claimed that the FCRA Amendment Act, 2020 significantly hampered their activities and operations.