home-ministry-amends-fcra-rules-summary

Context: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has recently relaxed norms for farmer, student, religious, and other groups who are not directly aligned to any political party to receive foreign funds if the groups are not involved in “active politics”.

Background:

  • FCRA Rules, 2011 dealt with “guidelines for the declaration of an organization to be of a political nature, not being a political party”, and the Central government could specify an organization as that of political nature based on six criteria.

Recent Amendments:

  • The Ministry notified new rules under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010 recently thereby amending the FCRA Rules, 2011.
  • Provisions under new rule: The organizations specified shall be considered to be of political nature, if they participate in active politics or party politics, as the case may be.”
    • Clause V of Rule 3 (FCRA 2011) qualified a political group as, “organizations of farmers, workers, students, youths based on caste, community, religion, language or otherwise, which is not directly aligned to any political party.
    • Clause (VI) qualified a group as political if the “organization by whatever name habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like rasta roko, jail bharo, rail roko, bandh, or hartal in support of the public cause.
  • Stringent registration: Any organisation that wants to register itself under FCRA “shall be in existence for three years”.
    • It should also have “spent a minimum amount of ₹15 lakh on its core activities for the benefit of society during the last three financial years”. 
    • Exceptions: However, exceptions could be granted “provided that the Central Government, in exceptional cases or in cases where a person is controlled by the Central Government or a State Government may waive the conditions”.
    • The office bearers of NGOs or organisations seeking registration under the FCRA must submit a specific commitment letter from the donor indicating the amount of foreign contribution and the purpose for which it was being given.

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)

  • It regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect the internal security of the country. 
  • The Act, first enacted in 1976, was amended in the year 2010, when a slew of new measures was taken by the Union Home Ministry to regulate foreign donations. It was again amended in September 2020.
  • Applicability: 
    • The Act is applicable to all associations, groups, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who intend to receive foreign donations.
  • Prohibited members:
    • As per the FCRA, members of legislatures, political parties, government officials, judges, and media persons are prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution
Source: TH