The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act is being misused by the Indian government to "silence" groups that are critical of the Centre's ways, according to three human rights experts associated with the United Nations, reported PTI. The experts have said the Narendra Modi government should reconsider the legal provision that restricts NGOs from availing foreign funds. This comes a day after the Home Ministry cancelled the FCRA licence of activist Teesta Setalvad’s (pictured above) NGO Sabrang, which handles cases related to the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
"We are alarmed that Foreign Contribution Regulation Act provisions are being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the government," they said. The experts – Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteurs on Human rights defenders, David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression, and Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of association – said the government's crackdown on NGOs with the help of the Act is not in accordance with international norms on human rights.
"We are alarmed by reports that the suspension was politically motivated and was aimed at intimidating, delegitimising and silencing Lawyers Collective for their litigation and criticism of the Government's policies," the experts said. In June, the Home Ministry decided to bar senior advocate and former additional solicitor general Indira Jaising's non-profit, Lawyers Collective, from receiving foreign funds for the next six months.
In a statement, the UN experts observed that terms like "political nature", "economic interest of the State" or "public interest" in the Act are "overly broad, do not conform to a prescribed aim, and are not a proportionate responses to the purported goal of the restriction".
"We strongly urge the Government to reverse its decision and embrace the invaluable contribution of the two prominent human rights defenders in upholding constitutional values in India. We encourage the authorities to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society, which play a critical role in holding the Government to account and buttressing the Indian democracy," the statement read.