The Supreme Court today refused to grant interim relief on a plea challenging the government’s refusal to renew licenses needed to receive funding from abroad to 6,000 Non-Governmental Organisations, or NGOs. The court was hearing a plea filed by the US-based NGO Global Peace Initiative that said the cancellation of licences can have a debilitating effect on COVID-19 relief efforts as the country is battling its third wave of infections and the work done by many of these NGOs has helped millions of Indians so far. It will lead to denial of aid to citizens in need, the plea said.
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar took note of the Centre’s submission that 11,594 NGOs that applied for renewal within the deadline have already been given an extension. The court said that NGOs can make representation to the authorities, and they can take a call.
Appearing for the government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta questioned the motive behind the plea and mentioned that thousands of NGOs that applied for renewal had already received extensions. He also pointed out that the petitioner is US-based.
“This public-spirited NGO is USA based. It’s based in Houston. Licenses of those NGOs that have applied for renewal have already been extended. I do not know what purpose is sought with this plea. But something is amiss,” he said.
The date for the next hearing, which is to be held later, has not been fixed yet. The court said that it will take place after the judgement is announced in another Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) amendments case.
The plea had argued that the NGOs are doing good work and should be given an extension until Covid remains notified as a national disaster.
The petition included mention of the NGO Missionaries of Charity as well. However, the Centre renewed its FCRA licence on January 6.
“Our prayers regarding Missionaries of Charity are not needed now (as licence renewed). But keeping specific ones aside, most such organisations are doing good work. As long as Covid is notified as a national disaster, the licence should be renewed. No heavens will fall,” said Sanjay Hegde, arguing for the petitioner.
Mr Hegde claimed that there are 6,000 NGOs for which licence has not been extended, including the temple Tirupati Devasthanam and others. Justice AM Khanwilkar said that if these NGOs have not applied for an extension, then they don’t want to continue in the present regime.
The plea said that the sudden and arbitrary cancellation of FCRA registration of thousands of these NGOs violates the rights of the organisations, their workers as well as the millions of Indians who they serve.
Highlighting the work done by these NGOs, the petition argued that even the Prime Minister’s office has acknowledged their role in combatting the pandemic.
“The role of NGOs in helping combat the pandemic has been acknowledged by the Central Government, the Niti Aayog and the Prime Minister’s office itself,” the plea said.