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NHRC issues notice to Home Ministry over NGO licence renewal issue

The National Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Home Ministry following a complaint alleging “draconian” approach of the Centre in connection with renewal of licence of NGOs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

“The 7th Human Rights Defender Forum Colombo, Sri Lanka has informed the Commission to intervene in the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence non-renewal of the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (CPSC). 

“Such systematic attack on rights of the human rights defenders and on fundamental rights of the association and assembly as enshrined in the Article 19 of the Constitution of India has also been brought to notice of the Commission,” an NHRC statement said on Wednesday.

The NHRC has taken suo motu cognisance of the case and directed the Secretary (Home) to inform it within a period of six weeks about certain parameters related to the issues. The Commission has sought from the ministry “the number of NGOs of human rights defenders who have not been allowed renewal of the licence and the amount received by them from foreign funding during last three years and the reason for non-renewal”.

It has also sought to know from the ministry “how the generic aspect of access to foreign funding and continuance of the same is not the right to form association and is not against international law, standards and principles”.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly, in his local analysis of FCRA 2010, has submitted a report of the Union government in 2016 arguing that FCRA is not in conformity with international law, principles and standards as access to resources including the foreign funding is a fundamental part of the right to freedom of association under the international laws, standards and principles, the statement said. 

The Commission has also asked the ministry “to point out in case of the Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns (more publicly known through its programme namely People’s Watch) how the litmus test laid down by the UN Special Rapporteur is applied in the adjudication by the central government”.

“Prima facie it appears FCRA licence non-renewal is neither legal nor objective and thereby impinging on the rights of the human rights defenders, both in access to funding, including foreign funding,” the statement added.
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