The Top court heard a petition against the centre’s refusal to renew the licence required to get foreign funding for thousands of nonprofits that could impair their vital humanitarian, advocacy and other operations in India.
US-based non-governmental organisation or NGO Global Peace Initiative that filed the plea said the licence cancellation can have a debilitating effect on Covid-19 relief efforts. This comes at a time when the country is battling its third wave of infections and the work done by many of these 6,000 NGOs has been commendable.
The plea sought an extension of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act or FCRA Licenses for these NGOs till at least COVID-19 remains a “national disaster”
"The sudden and arbitrary cancellation of FCRA registration of thousands of these NGOs violates the rights of the organisations, their workers as well as the millions of Indians who they serve," the petition said.
"This is especially relevant at a time when the country is facing the third wave of the COVID-19 virus... The cancellation of the licenses of close to 6000 NGOs at this time will hamper relief efforts and lead to denial of aid to citizens in need," it said.
Messages released to a select group of journalists on WhatsApp attributed to "government sources" claimed nearly half of these organisations had not applied for the renewal of their licenses.
The petition added that the role of NGOs in helping combat the pandemic has been acknowledged by the central government, the NITI Aayog and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi's office.
The plea urged that the same exigencies exist today and the decision to cancel/not renew licenses, therefore, shows a lack of application of mind.
"The work done by these NGOs helped millions of Indians and the sudden and arbitrary cancellation of FCRA registration of thousands of these NGOs violates the rights of the organisations, their workers as well as the millions of Indians who they serve," it added.
The petition stated that the refusal to renew the license is "ex-facie illegal and liable to be set aside", and cancellation of the license of a renowned charitable organization like the Missionaries of Charities on vague grounds such as "adverse inputs" will have a chilling effect on all other NGOs.