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Home / News / World /  UN rapporteur Maina Kiai critiques FCRA

New Delhi: The much-contested Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (FCRA) has come under fire again, this time from United Nations special rapporteur Maina Kiai.

Appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, Kiai submitted a legal analysis of the FCRA to the government on 20 April arguing that the Act and its rules—which regulate foreign funding to not-for-profit organizations (NPOs), politicians and journalists—are in violation of international law and standards regarding freedom of association.

As special rapporteur, Kiai’s brief was to look into the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. He has, in his analysis, claimed that terms such as “political objectives," “political activities" and “political interests" were being applied to NPOs in India “in an arbitrary and capricious manner".

FCRA, governed by the ministry of home affairs, has been in the spotlight since mid-2014 with high-profile organizations such as Greenpeace India, Ford Foundation, Sabrang Trust and Lawyers’ Collective being accused of violating its provisions.

Organizations have accused the present National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of repeatedly misusing FCRA. The special rapporteur’s analysis argued that the ability to access resources, including foreign funding, was a fundamental part of the right to freedom of association, granted under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which India is a party to.

“On its face, the FCRA does not provide the necessary precision required for clarity and notice," Kiai’s report stated, adding that this gave the government broad discretionary powers that could be applied in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

This claim finds an echo among NPOs in the country. Activists like Anil Choudhary of Insaf, an umbrella association of NPOs working with grassroots organizations on issues of human rights and civil liberties, believe this report has vindicated their stand.

Insaf is currently fighting a case in the Supreme Court against the government, challenging FCRA on similar grounds. However, as Indira Jaising, former additional solicitor general of India and co-founder of Lawyers Collective, pointed out, the report deals with only one aspect of the problematic law. “The manner in which the law is being applied today is a more serious concern than just the threat to freedom of association," she said. According to her the law is being used selectively to curb dissent.

Former FCRA director J.K. Chattopadhyay rubbished the report. “This kind of report simply interferes in our policy matters. Our Parliament enacted the law after due deliberation and if all of a sudden some foreigner says that our parliamentarians do not know their job, one can simply laugh at the naivete."

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