Why was Rajiv Gandhi Foundation’s FCRA license cancelled? Understand the law on foreign funding of NGOs

The central government has taken action on the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF), a non-governmental organization (NGO) associated with the Gandhi family. The certificate granted to RGF under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 2010 has been cancelled. Now Rajiv Gandhi Foundation will not be able to get any kind of funding from abroad. According to officials, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) under Amit Shah has taken this action on the alleged violation of the law. The MHA had formed an inter-ministerial committee in 2020. After the investigation of this committee, it was decided to cancel the FCRA license of RGF. Former Congress President Sonia Gandhi is the chairperson of RGF. Trustees of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation include former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

What is FCRA? What are the rules for receiving foreign donations?

  • FCRA stands for Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. Foreign donations are regulated through this law.
  • FCRA first came into existence in 1976. The rules changed in 2010.
  • All associations, groups and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in India that require donations from abroad have to meet the FCRA criteria.
  • FCRA registration is mandatory for all such NGOs. The registration is valid for five years, after which it can be renewed.
  • Registered entities are allowed to receive foreign donations for social, educational, religious, economic and cultural reasons.
  • Everyone has to file annual returns.

In 2015, the MHA issued new guidelines. It is mandatory for all NGOs to have accounts in either government or private banks so that security agencies can get real time access.

  • Now all NGOs have to provide proof that from foreign funding
  • Sovereignty and integrity of India will not be in danger
  • Relationships with friendly countries will not be negatively affected
  • Will not weaken communal harmony

When is FCRA registration canceled?

According to the FCRA Act, the Central Government may, on being satisfied after the inquiry, cancel the certificate, provided-

  • Wrong or false information provided at the time of applying for FCRA registration or renewal thereof
  • The registration holder has contravened the terms and conditions or in the opinion of the Central Government it is necessary in the public interest to do so
  • the registration holder has contravened any of the provisions of FCRA or the rules or orders made thereunder
  • The registration holder has not been engaged in any reasonable activity in his chosen field for the benefit of the society for two consecutive years or is dead

The central government can cancel the registration of an NGO for 180 days even after the investigation is on. NGO funds can also be frozen. All orders of the government can be challenged in the High Court.

What happens if FCRA registration is canceled or suspended?

According to FCRA, an order for cancellation of certificate cannot be issued unless the person or the NGO concerned has been given an opportunity of being heard. Once the registration of an NGO is canceled, it cannot be registered again for the next three years.

What is Rajiv Gandhi Foundation?

RGF was created in 1991 after the name of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi is its chairperson. Its board also includes former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi. According to the RGF website, the foundation has worked on “serious issues like health, literacy, science and technology, women and child welfare”.

What can be the reason behind cancellation of registration?

In August 2020, BJP made sensational claims regarding the funding of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. It was alleged that Rajiv Gandhi Foundation continued to receive donations from companies of PNB scam accused Mehul Choksi. BJP had said that RGF also got donations from Zakir Naik, Rana Kapoor of Yes Bank and Jignesh Shah. After that the Ministry of Home Affairs started the investigation. The investigation of PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act) was going on.

In the past, there has been controversy over the help of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation from the Chinese government. In 2005-06, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation received donations from the government of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Embassy from two different donors, according to the foundation’s annual report. The Chinese embassy has been placed on the list of general donors. two years ago

RGF registration cancelled, what will happen next?

According to the notification issued by the central government in August, the NGO can file an online review petition if it is not satisfied with the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs to suspend or cancel the registration. The amendment application can be filed within one year from the date of intimation of the order. In its amendment application, the NGO will have to mention why it is seeking the amendment and the documents, if any, related to it, they can also be submitted. For this a fee of three thousand rupees will have to be paid. Earlier this fee was Rs 1,000 and was paid through demand draft or cheque. The option of going to the High Court is also open.

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