FCRA – Tool to restrict Civil Liberties

FCRA – Tool to restrict Civil Liberties

News: The ministry of home affairs (MHA) has cancelled the foreign contribution regulation act (FCRA) licence of leading think-tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR), about a year after it was suspended, for allegedly violating provisions of the foreign funding law.

What is FCRA?
• The FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security.
• It was enacted during the Emergency in 1976 amid apprehensions that foreign powers were interfering in India’s affairs by pumping money into the country through independent organizations.

Why was FCRA license of Centre for Policy research cancelled by the MHA?
• The Centre accused CPR of violating the FCRA by publishing current affairs programs, diverting funds to ‘anti-development project’ litigants, and hampering India’s economic interest.
• It was noticed that the CPR had transferred foreign contributions to other entities and deposited them in non-designated accounts, which is a violation of Section 7 (Prohibition to transfer foreign contribution to other person) of the FCRA.
• The Centre stated that the CPR’s activities are likely to affect the economic interest of the state and the violations are grave in nature.

Concerns associated with recent move:
• FCRA was born out of the Emergency era, initially aimed at preventing foreign interference, has evolved with successive amendments, becoming more stringent.
• FCRA amendments have created an environment of increased state control, limiting the autonomy of civil society organizations. Stringent regulations may obstruct the vital work of civil society actors, undermining their capacity to contribute to governance and policy-making.
• The 2020 amendments to FCRA criticized by the International Commission of Jurists as incompatible with international law, imposing extraordinary obstacles on civil society actors.
• The recent steps appear to show Government’s insensitivity towards CSO’s and go against the idea of India seeking recognition as ‘Vishwaguru’.
• India was recently downgraded to an \'electoral autocracy\' due to the erosion of civil liberties and it goes against Democratic principles which weaken our position in Global Freedom and Democracy indices. 

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