The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has removed crucial data from the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act website, including information on annual returns and licence status of non-government organisations, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.
The law has provisions for getting funds from foreign-based entities.
While the ministry did not mention a reason behind the move, unidentified officials told the newspaper that the data was considered “unnecessary” and therefore restricted for public viewing.
Earlier, the website maintained details on the licences granted to NGOs to accept foreign contribution, quarterly accounts of foreign contributions received by them, NGOs whose licences have been cancelled, licenses whose validity has expired and their annual returns.
“Whatever data was deemed not useful or unnecessary has been removed,” an official of the Home Affairs Ministry said. “The overall data on the number of NGOs that have lost licence and the number of NGOs which have filed annual returns has been maintained as it is.”
The detailed data on the website was a source of information to the press and policymakers, The Times of India reported.
The move is in line with the changes in the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act rules that the ministry had notified earlier this month.
On July 1, the ministry made changes to the rules “to lessen the compliance burden on NGOs”, reported The Indian Express. Changes were made to Rule 13 which deals with the declaration of receipt of foreign contributions. Clause B of Rule 13 was deleted.
The clause stated: “A person receiving foreign contribution in a quarter of the financial year shall place details of foreign contribution received on its official website or on a website as specified by the central government within 15 days following the last day of the quarter in which it has been received clearly indicating details of donors, amount received and date of receipt.”
NGOs impacted by FCRA law
In the recent past, NGOs have alleged that the Centre was using the FCRA law to go after organisations they do not agree with.
An FCRA registration is mandatory for non-profit organisations to be able to receive foreign funds.
Recently, the Global Peace Initiative had moved the Supreme Court to direct the Centre to exempt humanitarian organisations from the purview of FCRA till Covid-19 continues to be a “notified disaster”. In January, however, the court refused to extend the FCRA licences of approximately 6,000 non-profit organisations.
Oxfam India Trust, Indian Youth Centres Trust, Jamia Millia Islamia and Tuberculosis Association of India were among the NGOs whose registrations had become void in January.
In April, the ministry cancelled the FCRA registration of human rights organisation Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. But the organisation said that most of allegations made by the government were vague. It said it had responded to every alleged irregularity pointed out by the Centre before suspending the organisation’s foreign fund licence.