Govt intends to amend FCRA and make Aadhaar mandatory for foreign funds to be raised by NGOs

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New Delhi: A Bill amending the Foreign Donation (Regulation) Act, 2010, proposes to include ‘public servants’ and ‘government-owned or managed companies’ in the category of organizations not eligible to collect funds from abroad. The NGO’s office-bearer Aadhaar numbers would be necessary for registration.

The draught bill notes that administration costs should not be spent on more than 20 percent of the total international funds earned. The cap actually stands at 50 percent. The Resolution, that is the Global Contribution Law (Amendment) 2020, was passed on Sunday in the Lok Sabha. The government described the move as a measure to ensure enforcement, enhance efficiency and accountability in the reception and use of thousands of rupee crores of foreign contribution per year.

If passed, the bill would allow the government to ask an infringer not to use the funds by conducting a “summary investigation.” Previously, it was done only after the person or organization was found guilty of violating the Act.

Amendment of Section 17 of the Act sought to provide that any person is given a certificate or prior authorization pursuant to Section 12 shall obtain a foreign donation only in the account designated as “FCRA Account” to be opened in the SBI branch in New Delhi, as may be defined by the Central Government by notification. However, it also allowed the organization to move these funds to another utilization account.

The annual influx of international donations nearly doubled between 2010 and 2019, according to the home ministry. “But for the reason for which they were licensed or given prior permission under the said Act, many beneficiaries of foreign contributions did not use the same. Many of them have been found to be in need of essential regulatory implementation, such as the presentation of annual returns and the maintaining of appropriate records. This has led to a situation where, during the period between 2011 and 2019, the central government had to revoke registration certificates for more than 19,000 recipient organizations, including non-governmental organizations, ”the proposed Bill says.

Several influential NGOs such as Greenpeace, Amnesty International, Teesta Setalvad’s NGO, Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP), Sympathy International, Lawyers Collective, among others, had highlighted alleged abuse of foreign donation. While introducing the reforms, in the declaration and objects, Union Home Minister Amit Shah claimed that this would encourage “genuine” non-governmental organizations or organizations working for society’s welfare.

Last year, the home ministry brought rules to deter conversion NGOs and said that each NGO official and the member would have to file an affidavit claiming that the person was not involved in any act of religious conversion or punished for group disharmony.

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