Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

NGOs vs government

Mint examines some cases of non-profits moving court in the past five years

T. Mano Thangaraj vs deputy secretary to Government of India
Madras high court, 2012

T. Mano Thangaraj of Good Vision. Photo: Nathan G/Mint

• The cases: RUC had filed a writ petition while Good Vision had filed a civil appeal. The two cases were heard together. Both challenged MHA’s actions of freezing their accounts, claiming denial of “natural justice" (legal terminology for the rule against bias and the right to a fair hearing) because a reasonable cause was not cited.

• The order: The Madurai bench of the Madras high court in its judgement set aside the ban on the two nonprofits receiving foreign contributions. But the court also said if MHA felt the need to take action against them, it could after following the due process.

• Current status: Good Vision is continuing to work but with reduced staff, no foreign funding and restricted campaigns, while RUC has had little impact on its operations.

• Funded by: Good Vision claims it received foreign funds until 2010 for relief work in tsunami-affected areas. RUC’s balance sheet shows it received funds from the German organization Misereor, Denmark-based Coraid, Indesch Patenschaften of Luxembourg, Miva of the Netherlands and individual donors.

Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) vs Union of India
Delhi high court, 2013

Anil Chaudhary of INSAF. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

• The cases: INSAF then went to court with a writ petition challenging MHA’s action citing the lack of proper procedure. The organization said it was neither notified nor given a reason for the suspension of its FCRA licence.

• The order: The Delhi high court found that the government had not followed due procedure and did not find reason to uphold the suspension of licence. It, therefore, overturned the MHA order.

• Che order: The Delhi high court found that the government had not followed due procedure and did not find reason to uphold the suspension of licence. It, therefore, overturned the MHA order.

• Funded by: Germany’s Bread for the World and smaller donors, including Global Green Grant, ActionAid, Henry Bull Foundation and Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, on a per-project basis.

Centre for Promotion of Social Concerns vs Union of India
Delhi high court, 2014

Henri Tiphagne of CPSC. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

• The cases: In April 2014, CPSC went to court citing the INSAF case and the misuse of the suspension clause.

• The order: The court ruled in CPSC’s favour and directed MHA to let the organization operate its bank accounts.

• Current status: Though CPSC’s work continues, it has scaled down activities and staff. It is also awaiting renewal of its FCRA licence.

• Funded by: Bread for the World, Ford Foundation, small donors from the Netherlands and Germany on a per-project basis, and an anonymous donor from the US.

Association for Democratic Reforms vs Union of India (Election Commission, BJP, Congress)
Delhi high court, 2013-14

Association of Democratic Reforms office in Delhi. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

• The cases: A PIL was filed in the Delhi high court against the Union of India, the Election Commission, Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, accusing them of violating FCRA by not declaring funds received from Vedanta Resources Plc., a company incorporated in the UK. The donations were not part of public record and neither was an FCRA licence sought before receiving these funds.

• The order: The court ruled in favour of the petitioner stating that the government’s actions “clearly fall foul of the ban imposed under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976".

• Current status: In May, the BJP and Congress appealed in the Supreme Court against the high court order directing them to divulge financial details as per FCRA requirements.

Greenpeace India Society vs Union of India and others
Delhi high court, 2014

Greenpeace India has been working on environmental issues for decades and shot into the limelight after its sustained campaign against the Mahan coal block in Madhya Pradesh in the past few years. MHA suspended Greenpeace India’s licence for receiving foreign funds in June 2014 and blocked a grant coming in from Greenpeace International.

• The cases: The organization aproached the Delhi high court stating that FCRA requires the government to first inform and then explain why it is suspending/ cancelling the licence.

• The order: When MHA failed to convince the court that Greenpeace’s activities were detrimental to national interest, in January the court ruled in favour of Greenpeace and directed the government to lift the suspensions order and let it receive funds.

• Current status: In April, Greenpeace India’s international funds were blocked again and seven bank accounts were frozen. In May, the organization declared that it may have to shut down by June because it had no money left to even take care of day-to-day operations. A week later, on 18 May, Greenpeace India filed an appeal in the Delhi high court, challenging MHA’s actions. On 27 May, the high court passed an interim order, permitting Greenpeace India to access some domestic bank accounts and use some fixed deposits. The court also directed the government to decide whether Greenpeace could access 25% of its foreign funds as per the FCRA norms. The next hearing is on 4 September.

• Funded by: Greenpeace International, individual donors.

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