From Jaising to Setalvad, Funding Law Exploited to Silence Critics


The three experts called on India to repeal the FCRA, which is been increasingly used to obstruct civil society’s access to foreign funding. (Photo: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/indira.jaising?fref=ts">Facebook Page of Indira Jaising</a>, AP)
The three experts called on India to repeal the FCRA, which is been increasingly used to obstruct civil society’s access to foreign funding. (Photo: Facebook Page of Indira Jaising, AP)

From Jaising to Setalvad, Funding Law Exploited to Silence Critics

Three UN human rights experts have called on India to repeal a law restricting NGOs’ access to crucial foreign funding, saying its provisions are increasingly being used to “silence” groups that are critical of government’s policies.

The UN Special Rapporteurs Michel Forst, David Kay, and Maina Kiai, in their call to “repeal” the FCRA, said:

We are alarmed that Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) provisions are being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the government.
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This development comes in the wake of the government banning funding to Teesta Setalavad’s NGO, which works for the cause of the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

On 16 June, the Home Ministry issued an order saying that the central government has cancelled the permanent registration of Sabrang Trust, run by civil rights activist Teesta Stelvad and her husband Javed Anand, with immediate effect.

Also Read: Government Bans Teesta Setelvad’s NGO From Receiving Foreign Funds

The three experts called on India to repeal the FCRA, which they say fails to comply with international human rights norms and standards.

Despite detailed evidence provided by Lawyers Collective to rebut all allegations and prove that all foreign contributions were spent and accounted for in line with FCRA, the suspension was still applied, the UN human rights experts said in a statement issued from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The experts noted that the NGO is known for its public interest litigation and advocacy in defence of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of Indian society.

We are alarmed by reports that the suspension was politically motivated and was aimed at intimidating, delegitimising and silencing Lawyers Collective for their litigation and criticism of the Government’s policies.
The Experts 

The experts’ call comes as India’s Home Affairs Ministry suspended the registration of the non-governmental organisation Lawyers Collective for six months earlier in June under the FCRA.

The suspension was imposed on the basis of allegations that its founders, human rights lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, violated the act provisions by using foreign funding for purposes other than intended, the statement said.

The government had also suspended the registration of Greenpeace India under the FCRA for six months earlier in April 2015, it added.

(With agency inputs.)

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