The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it recognises the role of non-profit and voluntary organizations in national development and genuine NGOs need not shy away from any regulatory compliance mandated under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
In an affidavit filed in the top court, which is hearing a batch of petitions raising issues concerning the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act 2020, the government has said that there exists no right to seek foreign contribution without regulation.
It said the right to form associations and the right to freedom of trade and profession cannot include the right to receive unbridled and unregulated foreign contributions.
"It is also respectfully submitted that the answering respondent recognizes the role of non-profit organizations (NGOs) and voluntary organizations in national development," it said.
"Genuine NGOs need not shy away from any regulatory compliance mandated under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 for quick and effective monitoring of the receipt and utilisation of foreign contribution for sake of transparency, accountability so that the foreign contribution is not received and utilised for any activities detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of the country, public order and interests of the general public and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto," the affidavit said.
It said the prohibition on the transfer of foreign contribution, receipt of foreign contribution in the State Bank of India, New Delhi main branch, and obtaining Aadhaar number of the office bearers, key functionaries, and members would improve compliance mechanism, enhance transparency and fix accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contribution.
It said the rights under Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of the petitioners remain unaffected and untouched by the amendments and the right to life and liberty of a person cannot include the right to receive foreign contributions without due care and regulation as provided by the procedure established by law.
While seeking dismissal of the pleas, the affidavit also dealt with the issue raised by some of the petitioners regarding the requirements under the amendment Act that each license holder under FCRA has to open a bank account in a nominated branch of the State Bank of India at New Delhi.
It said the concern of the petitioner about the physical access to the local bank account of its choice is "unfounded and misleading".
"The averments made by some petitioners stating that there are close to 50,000 persons registered under FCRA is false and misleading and amounts to twisting of facts. In fact, a closer scrutiny of the documents attached from the FCRA website would reveal that out of close to 50,000 persons registered under FCRA, registration certificates of less than 23,000 persons are active, whereas registration of over 20,600 non-compliant persons has been cancelled already," it said.
The Centre further said that based on the existing procedure, over 19,000 accounts have already been opened at SBI, New Delhi's main branch.
While two of these petitions in the top court have challenged the amendments carried out in the Act, one of them has sought stricter enforcement of the amended and other provisions of the law.
A bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar would hear the matter on October 28.
One of the pleas has sought a direction to the government not to grant any further extension to the NGOs to comply with specific provisions of the law including on opening of bank account at a specific branch of a nationalised bank.
It has said that May 18 notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs had extended the date for compliance of specific provisions of the Act regarding the opening of account in the designated branch of State of Bank of India here from March 31, 2021, to June 30 this year.