Union home ministry cancels FCRA registration of hundreds of organisations for alleged failure in filing annual returns for 5 consecutive years
In a potentially controversial move, the Union home ministry has barred hundreds of organisations across the country from receiving foreign funds on the grounds that these institutions had failed to file their annual returns for the past five years.
The list of organisations whose registration under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) stands cancelled includes the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi University (DU), IIT-Delhi and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) along with the Supreme Court Bar Association.
No organisation or institution is allowed to receive funds from abroad unless it is registered under FCRA. However, all organisations that register under the FCRA and receive foreign funds have to mandatorily file their annual income and expenditure statements with the Union government. Educational institutions usually seek FCRA registration to enable them to receive donations from alumni based abroad.
Among the other organisations that have now been barred from receiving foreign contributions are Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Punjab University, Gargi College (Delhi), Lady Irwin College (Delhi), Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, Armed Forces Flag Day Fund, School Of Planning & 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 Manohar Lohia International Trust, Co-ordinating Voluntary Adoption Resource Agency, Bombay Diocesan Society, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (Karnataka), Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health (Bengaluru), Shri Mahatma Gandhi Charitable Trust (Gujarat) and Sri Satya Sai Trust also figure in the list.
Sources said each of these institutions and organisations had failed to file their income and expenditure statements between financial years 2010-11 and 2014-15, despite being served repeated notices.
IIT-Delhi Director V Ramgopal Rao has been quoted by The Indian Express as saying: “I’m not aware of this. But IIT-Delhi has nothing to hide. I’m sure we would have filed our returns. This seems like a procedural issue and we will sort this out with the government.”
In a similar vein, Promila Kumar, acting principal of Gargi College, too claimed that returns had been filed by her college. “In fact, we got a reminder about filing returns recently and we informed the government that we have already complied. I’m not sure why this has happened,” Kumar was quoted by The Indian Express.
ICMR Director General Soumya Swaminathan claimed that the matter had been resolved. The ICMR is funded by the Government of India, through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, and headed by a Secretary-rank official.
However, the office of Union health minister JP Nadda claimed that ICMR had “slipped on some paperwork”.
“The Home Ministry had written to ICMR earlier this year, saying that it has FCRA exemption. However, as per the rules, it is required to submit an annual report to the Home Ministry on the receipt and utilisation of funds. That report will be submitted shortly, with whatever other formality that is required. We expect this to be sorted out in the next couple of days,” an advisor to Nadda was quoted saying according to some media reports.
The Union home ministry has clarified on the action saying those registered under FCRA were given time to file their annual returns and link their bank accounts. “Some of the government-aided NGOs claimed that they were exempted. However, they were told to file their documents… Those who failed to submit their returns stand to lose their FCRA licences. The organisation can, however, appeal against the cancellation, which will be considered on merit,” a Home Ministry spokesperson said.
In May, as a one-time measure, all NGOs were given one month to file their annual returns without payment of penalty.
In clear signs that the government is likely to intensify its crackdown against organisations that receive foreign funds under the FCRA, the Union home ministry has also directed 1,222 NGOs across the country to validate the bank accounts in which they receive foreign funds, failure of which will invite punitive action. This 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, Madani Darut Tarbiyat, Rehmat E Alam Hospital Trust (Anantnag), Rotary Club of Mumbai Midwest, Goonj, Madina Education and Charitable Society, Nagaland Bible College, Indian Institute for Nature and Environment Study among others.