The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to an pass interim order to protect around 6,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) whose registration had been cancelled or declined to be renewed by the Centre under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.
A Bench headed Justice AM Khanwilkar asked these NGOs to make representation to Central government, which would take decision as per law.
The plea filed by Global Peace Initiative, an organization incorporated in Texas, USA, and Dr. K A Paul, founder of the organisation, sought direction to the Centre to extend the validity of registration of those organizations that had failed to apply for renewal of registration, till such time as COVID-19 continues to be a ‘notified disaster’.
During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Centre, told the apex court that over 11,000 NGOs have already applied for renewal within the cut off time and their registration has been extended.
“In light of the stand taken by the authorities we do not intend to pass interim order. Petitioners are free to make representation to the authorities which may be considered by them in according with law,” the Bench stated in its order.
The petition had sought direction to strike down of the Public Notice issued on December 13, 2021 to the extent that it does not permit organizations whose applications for renewal of registration have been rejected, to not accept or utilize the foreign funds received.
The cancellation of licenses can have a debilitating effect on the COVID-19 relief efforts, said the plea. The petition stated that the role of NGOs in helping combat the pandemic has been acknowledged by the Central government, the Niti Aayog and the Prime Minister’s office itself and cancellation of the licenses of close to 6000 NGOs at this time will hamper relief efforts and lead to denial of aid to citizens in need.
It added that at the peak of the second wave, a number of NGOs and industry bodies had made representations seeking waiver of the requirements of the FCRA, and the MHA had also issued directions in exercise of powers conferred by Section 50 of the Act, extending the validity of registration of various organisations “in view of the exigencies arising out of COVID-19 situation”.
The plea urged that same exigencies exist today and the decision to cancel/not renew licenses therefore shows lack of application of mind.
“The work done by these NGOs helped millions of Indians and the sudden and arbitrary cancellation of FCRA registration of thousands of these NGOs violates the rights of the organisations, their workers as well as the millions of Indians who they serve,” it added.
The petition stated that the refusal to renew the license is “ex-facie illegal and liable to be set aside”, and cancellation of the license of a renowned charitable organization like the Missionaries of Charities on vague grounds such as “adverse inputs” will have a chilling effect on all other NGOs.