The Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday amended the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Rules), 2011, to make them more stringent, The Times of India reported.

The FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures it does not affect the internal security of the country. In September, the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010, was amended. The provision made Aadhaar mandatory for all office bearers of non-governmental organisations that seek foreign contributions. Election candidates, government servants, members of any legislature and political parties were also prohibited from accepting foreign funding. Currently, there are around 22,400 NGOs and associations active under the FCRA.

The new rules require any organisation that wants to register itself under the FCRA to have existed for at least three years and to have spent a minimum of Rs 15 lakh on its core activities during the last three financial years for the benefit of the society.

The home ministry, in a notification, also said office bearers of the NGOs seeking registration under the FCRA must submit a specific commitment letter from the donor on the amount of foreign contribution and the purpose for which it is given. It said there are two clauses to this:

  • For the Indian recipient persons and foreign donor organisations having common members, prior permission shall be granted to the Indian person/entity if it satisfies the conditions that the chief functionary of the recipient shall not be a part of the donor organisation, and 75% of the office-bearers or members of the governing body of the recipient shall not be members or employees of the foreign donor organisation.
  • In case of a foreign donor organisation being a single individual, that individual shall not be the chief functionary or office bearer of the recipient group and in case of a single foreign donor, 75% of the office bearers or members of the governing body of the recipient shall not be the family members or close relatives of the donor.

Significantly, the new rules state that farmers, students, religious and other organisations who are not directly aligned to any political party, but participate in bandhs, hartal or promote their interests in any other way, shall be considered of political nature. Political entities or those involved in “active politics” are barred from receiving foreign contributions.

Moreover, the application fee for seeking registration under the FCRA has been increased from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000, according to The Times of India. For grant of prior permission, the fee is now Rs 10,000, instead of the earlier Rs 5,000. The fee needs to be submitted via a payment gateway.

FCRA criticism

Last month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet had expressed concern over the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to “stifle the voices” of activists and non-governmental organisations in India. Bachelet urged the Narendra Modi government to safeguard their rights.

She cited an example of the recent use of the FCRA against human rights organisation Amnesty International India, leading to the shutting of its operations in the country.

On September 29, Amnesty International India had accused the Centre of having frozen its bank accounts as punishment for speaking out about alleged rights abuses. After its bank accounts were frozen, the organisation closed its India office.

The organisation, in a statement, had cited “reprisal’” from the government for winding down its operations. The group called the authorities’ action a part of an “incessant witch-hunt”, and said its “lawful fundraising model” was being portrayed as money laundering because Amnesty India had challenged the “government’s grave inactions and excesses.”

The move was widely criticised by various organisations. The United States, the United Kingdom as well as the European Union have also raised concerns about the government’s investigation into Amnesty International India. India has defended its decision, saying that other countries should not “condone contravention of Indian laws by any entity”.