India Greens Party welcomes SC judgement on NGOs’ role

INDIA GREENS PARTY

Press Statement

New Delhi, 7 March 2020: The India Greens Party (IGP) has welcomed the Supreme Court judgement that said the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) supporting public causes via recognised means of protest and dissent cannot be deprived of funds from foreign contributors and sources.

On 6 March 2020, the Supreme Court, in a key verdict, said that the organisations that did not have a political goal could not be penalised by declaring them as organisations of political nature.ts

The IGP President Suresh Nautiyal, in a press statement issued here in New Delhi on 7 March 2020, said the top court was right in saying that the NGOs with non-political goals that supported public causes by resorting to legitimate means of dissent — such as bandhs and strikes — could not have access to funds cut because, under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, FCRA, these were common expressions of political action.

“In democratic societies, the governments should act as facilitators, not as police inspectors,” Mr Nautiyal said while welcoming the SC verdict.

He said the Supreme Court verdict, delivered by a two-judge bench consisting of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta, has come as a response to a petition by the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) that challenged certain provisions of the FCRA, claiming it violated certain fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.

The court upheld the provision but, simultaneously, also read it down, or diluted it. “To save this provision from being declared unconstitutional, we hold it is only those organisations that have connection with active politics, or take part in politics, that are covered,” Justice L Nageswara Rao, writing the judgement for the bench, said. The court pointed out that the legislative intent behind the law had been to prohibit political organisations from receiving foreign contributions. It added that a balance had to be drawn between that objective and the rights of voluntary organisations to have access to foreign funds.

The INSAF petition had earlier been dismissed by the Delhi High Court. The petitioner, senior advocate Sanjay Parekh, had contended that vague expressions had been given to certain activities, and “instead of defining those activities, the canvas of vagueness has been expanded thereby resulting in arbitrariness and violation of constitutional parameters”.

Last month, while reserving its order in the case, the court said dissent could not be throttled and people should be encouraged to question the government as this was an important facet of democracy.

Mr Nautiyal said under the provisions of the FCRA that were challenged, the Centre had unchecked powers to categorise virtually any organisation as organisation of political nature, not being a political party, and thereby deny foreign contribution, adding that the verdict has been seen by many as crucial given cases registered against NGOs like human rights groups. “Hope, everything will be clear to the government now,” he pointed out.

-Press Statement issued by the IGP Spokesperson Michael Rajchandra

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