The Centre has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act licence of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust, the non-government organisations associated with the Gandhi family, for alleged violations of the law, PTI reported on Sunday.

Both the organisations are headed by former Congress president Sonia Gandhi and have top leaders of the party, including Rahul Gandhi, as members. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram are members of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, according to its website, has worked on number of issues including health, education, science and technology, women’s empowerment and disability support. The Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust, established in 2002, claims to have addressed the development needs of the underprivileged population of the country, especially the rural poor.

Registration under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act is mandatory to receive foreign funds. The cancellation of the license makes the two NGOs ineligible to get foreign donations.

Legal amendments made in 2020 to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act allow the government to extend tighter control over utilisation of foreign funds by organisations.

Sunday’s development came after the Union home ministry had set up an inter-ministerial committee in 2020 to coordinate investigations into alleged violations of the foreign funding law by the two organisations.

The committee was set up after the Bharatiya Janata Party had accused the Congress of having received funds from the Chinese embassy in New Delhi for the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, and had asked whether it was a bribe for a free trade agreement between India and China.

The investigation covered alleged violation of legal provisions of several laws, including the Income Tax Act, the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, by the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust and the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

“There were several irregularities by the two NGOs in the way the FCRA registration was being used, following the probe, the registration was cancelled,” an unidentified official told The Hindu.

A special director of the Enforcement Directorate along with the members from the Income Tax Department, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Urban Development and the home ministry were part of the investigating team.

On Sunday, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told the media that cancelling the FCRA registration of the two organisations associated with Congress leaders has exposed the party’s corruption.

Patra alleged that the donations to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation were made in 2005-’06, adding that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was the chairperson then.

Decision shows BJP’s ‘political malice’: Congress

However, Congress leader and party’s General Secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh said that the Centre’s decision was aimed at diverting public attention from the main issues facing the country, reported PTI.

“They [Centre] recycle old charges against the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust,” said Ramesh. “This is to defame the Congress and divert public attention from issues of day-to-day concern to them.”

Rajasthan Chief Minister and Congress leader Ashok Gehlot described the move as “political malice”.

“Both these institutions have a history of helping the victims in every disaster including earthquake, tsunami, Covid-19 pandemic,” Gehlot tweeted on Sunday. “Rajiv Gandhi Foundation works for the service of orphans, women and handicapped. Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust is doing the work of women’s empowerment and service of visually impaired.”

He added that Centre’s attack against these institutions for political reasons is another “malpractice by the Modi government to defame the Gandhi family”.