Govt freezes bank accounts of Amnesty India for circumventing law
29 September 2020
The government has finally decided to freeze the bank accounts of Amnesty International, a foreign entity working under the garb of human rights research, for circumventing laws of the land for collection and distribution of illegal funds in the country.
The ministry of home affairs said the organisation was indulging in "illegal practices" due to which its earlier applications to receive funds from overseas had also been rejected.
Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as FDI, the ministry said.
In fact, the ministry said, Amnesty never had a licence to collect funds from abroad except in September 2000, when Amnesty International received permission under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) for once.
“In order to circumvent the FCRA regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without MHA’s approval under FCRA. This mala fide rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions,” the MHA said.
This bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty, under different governments, makes it clear that the entire fault lies in the dubious processes adopted by Amnesty to secure funds for its operations.
"The stand taken and statements by Amnesty International are unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth. Amnesty International had received permission under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too 20 years ago (19.12.2000)," said the ministry of home affairs (MHA) in a statement on Tuesday.
"Since then Amnesty International has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since it is not eligible to get such approval. In order to circumvent FCRA regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as FDI."
"Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India. However, India doesn't allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well," said the MHA.
The ministry’s clarification comes after Amnesty International India announced it will close its operations in the country after being "compelled to let go off staff in India" and halt all its research work since all its bank accounts have been frozen.
Amnesty had called the government’s move to freeze its bank accounts a witch-hunt “over unfounded and motivated allegations”.
"Owing to these illegal practices of Amnesty, the previous government had also rejected repeated applications of Amnesty to receive funds from overseas. This had led Amnesty to suspend its India operations once during that period as well," it added.
Amnesty is aggrieved of the complicity of Delhi police in the riots that broke out the national capital in February. It is also worried about the injustice of quelling terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, which it sees as violation of human rights.
Amnesty International India executive director Avinash Kumar said the continuing crackdown on the organisation over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is “not accidental”.
“The constant harassment by government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir. For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent,” he said.
Amnesty is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate over alleged irregularities in receiving foreign funds. According to the home ministry, the human rights organisation "got money into India through the FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) route," which is not allowed in the case of non-profits.