FCRA amendments to protect India’s sovereignty, integrity, MHA to SC

New Delhi: The Centre has told the Supreme Court that there is no fundamental right to receive unbridled foreign contributions without any regulation, as it defended the 2020 amendments to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).

It emphasised that the FCRA’s aim was to ensure foreign contribution does not adversely impinge upon the functioning of parliamentary institutions, political associations and academic and other voluntary organisations as well as individuals in India.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in a 355-page affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, said the Parliament has enacted the FCRA, to lay down a clear legislative policy of strict controls over foreign contributions for certain activities in the country.

It said the “legislation has also prohibited acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.

On the aspect of violation of fundamental rights, the MHA said: “It is unequivocally submitted that there exists no fundamental right to receive unbridled foreign contributions without any regulation. It is submitted that in fact, there exists no fundamental right under which any right, legal or otherwise, can be said to include the purported right to receive foreign contributions.”

It added that “no part of any purported right to receive foreign contributions can be said to be a part of the fundamental rights granted to citizens”.

It emphasised that foreign contributions, considering their nature and vast expanse of abuse, are tightly regulated and the government is well within its rights to make the changes in order to effectively implement the objects of the Parliament.

The MHA’s response came on three petitions — two challenging the validity of the amendments and the other seeking stricter enforcement of the amendments.

“In the absence of any violation of a fundamental right, the present set of petitions, claiming a moonshine fundamental right of ‘received unbridled foreign contributions’ are not maintainable under Article 32 and therefore, on this ground alone, the petitions deserve to be dismissed,” it said.

The MHA said that the FCRA was enacted with a clear objective to insulate the democratic polity and public institutions and individuals working in the national democratic space from the undue influence of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality received from any foreign source.

“Therefore, sovereignty and integrity of India including public order and public interest is an essential dimension of the Act since its inception,” it said.

The Centre said during the implementation of the FCRA, 2010, it was increasingly noted that certain NGOs were involved primarily only in routing of foreign contributions.

“In other words, rather than ‘receiving’ and ‘utilising’ it – as is the intent of the Act – the NGOs were only receiving the foreign contribution and transferring it to other NGOs. Thus, establishing a principal-client relationship,” it added.

The petitioners are Noel Harper and Nigel Mills of Share and Care Foundation in Andhra Pradesh and Joseph Lizy and Annamma Joachim of National Workers Welfare Trust in Telangana.

The affidavit was settled by Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, who was assisted by advocate Kanu Agrawal.