Home ministry does u-turn on Greeenpeace, Teesta Setalvad

In an embarrassing about turn, the home ministry has reversed its renewal of foreign funding licences of Greenpeace India and social activist Teesta Setalvad's Sabrang Trust, once again blocking the two non-profits from receiving foreign funds.

The move, however, failed to bring any immediate result in the case of the Greenpeace India as the organistation had on 5 December obtained an interim stay order from the Madras High Court against the home ministry's 19 November order nullifying renewal of its FCRA registration.

The home ministry on Wednesday said it had also put on hold the renewal of foreign funding clearance for Citizens for Justice & Peace (CJP), another organisation run by Teesta Setalvad which was in the " prior permission" list - a category which does not debar an Indian entity from sourcing foreign contributions but makes it obligatory to obtain government approval for it.

The fresh look at the three cases, approved in early August under the online FCRA renewal system but "discovered" over the past month, is part of a wider audit ordered by the ministry covering the recent renewal of foreign funding licences of around 14,000 non-government organisations.

The ministry will probe possible lapses, including "foul play", on part of its officers in renewal of FCRA registration in the high-profile cases, even as the government's cyber security arm, Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) checks if the online clearances were obtained through cyber intrusions.

The renewal of FCRA registration of NGOs under scrutiny has left the home ministry red-faced, while putting the spotlight on the messy procedure of foreign funding clearances for NGOs. The Modi government has taken a tough stand against alleged FCRA violations by NGOs, scrapping the clearances of those found to be in breach of the same.

The Modi government does not take kindly to social activism. It justified its action against Greenpeace and Setalvad's bodies on the ground of alleged abuse of foreign funding norms.

However, the scrutiny and the crackdown against the violators has been hindered by the online renewal process which, it now turns out, provides scope for both human error.

Around the same time as the goof-up involving Greenpeace and Teesta's NGOs, the online system was allegedly subverted to renew FCRA clearance for Zakir Naik's now-outlawed Islamic Research Foundation just when the Islamic proselytiser was under scanner for promoting radicalism and terrorism.

Section 14(3) of the FCRA renders any NGO whose registration has been cancelled ineligible for fresh registration or grant of prior permission for a period of three years from the date of such cancellation.

The home ministry order reversing the  for Greenpeace faults the NGO for applying despite being aware of this provision and for not declaring that it had earlier been proceeded under FCRA, The Times of India reports.