JNU, DU among hit as govt clamps down on FCRA violations

The government has cancelled the foreign currency registrations of hundreds of organisations, including academic institutions like JNU, DU and IIT Delhi, under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), for failure to comply with the requirement of filing annual returns.

The toughening of the government's stance against non-compliance of rules will bar thousands of organisations, including major academic institutions like JNU, Delhi University, IIT Delhi and ICAR besides the Supreme Court Bar Association, from receiving foreign funds.

Reports quoting home ministry sources said the registration of these institutions under the FCRA has been cancelled in view of their failure to file annual returns for five consecutive years.

No organisation is allowed to receive funds from abroad unless it is registered under the FCRA.

The law obliges such organisations to submit income and expenditure statement to the government annually else their registration is cancelled.

Besides JNU and DU, the government's move will affect other prominent institutions like the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi), Panjab University, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Gargi College (Delhi) and Lady Irwin College (Delhi), according to a PTI report.

Organisations whose FCRA registration were cancelled also include the Supreme Court Bar Association, Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, Armed Forces Flag Day Fund, School Of Planning and Architecture (Delhi) and FICCI Socio Economic Development Foundation.

The Doon School Old Boys Association, Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Delhi, Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, Dr Ram Monohar Lohia International Trust and the Co-ordinating Voluntary Adoption Resource Agency have also been barred from receiving donations from abroad and their FCRA registrations cancelled.

The home ministry also cancelled the FCRA registrations of the Bombay Diocesan Society, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Karnataka, Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health, Bangalore, Shri Mahatma Gandhi Charitable Trust, Gujarat and the Sri Satya Sai Trust.

These organisations reportedly failed to file returns for five consecutive years, ie, from 2010-11 to 2014-15, despite serving repeated notices, a home ministry official said.

In May, as a one-time measure, the home ministry had given all NGOs one month's time to file their missing annual returns by 14 June without paying any penalty. Email and SMS alerts were also sent to them regularly for one month beginning mid- May, the official said.

The organisations were asked to furnish their replies, if any, by 23 July, failing which, the ministry said, it would be presumed that they have nothing to say and action as proposed would be taken as per FCRA.

As per the FCRA, the renewal of registration for receiving foreign funds cannot be granted unless the annual returns are uploaded on the FCRA website by the organisation.

Single account norm
The home ministry has also directed as many as 1,222 NGOs across the country to validate the bank accounts in which they receive foreign contribution, failure of which will invite punitive action.

Among others, the list includes Sri Ramakrishna Math, Ramakrishna Mission, Indore Cancer Foundation Charitable Trust, Coimbatore Christian Charitable Trust, Delhi School of Social Work Society, Hindu Anath Ashram and Madani Darut Tarbiyat.

In a circular, the ministry said all NGOs registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act should receive foreign donations in a single designated bank account.

However, none of these organisations have so far validated their foreign contribution designated accounts, causing problems for the banks to comply with the FCRA provisions that they (banks) report to the central government within 48 hours of such receipt or utilisation of foreign contribution, the circular read.

These associations are required to validate their foreign designated accounts and also the utilisation accounts immediately and send the details, including the bank branch, code, account number, IFSC etc through FC 6 form which is available on https://fcraonline.nic.in, the circular said.

A few others NGOs such as Rehmat E Alam Hospital Trust Anantanag, Rotary Club of Mumbai Midwest, JK Trust, Bombay, Goonj, Madina Education and Charitable Society, Nagaland Bible College, Indian Institute for Nature and Environment Study.

The Modi government, which has tightened the rules for NGOs, has already cancelled registration of more than 10,000 non-governmental organisations in the last three years for alleged non-filing of annual returns as mandated in the FCRA.

In addition, renewals of more than 1,300 NGOs have been denied or they were closed in recent past for allegedly violating various provisions of the FCRA.

The home ministry has also asked nearly 6,000 NGOs to open their accounts in banks having core banking facilities and furnish details for real-time access to security agencies in case of any discrepancy.

Many NGOs have their bank accounts in cooperative banks or state government-owned apex banks or banks which do not have core banking facilities.

In November, 2016, the government had directed more than 11,000 NGOs to file applications for renewal of registration by 28 February 2017.

Of these, 3,500 NGOs have filed applications for renewal and hence the registration of more than 7,000 NGOs were deemed expired due to non-filing of renewal applications.

However, the country still has around 22,000 FCRA registered NGOs in operation.