Centre can’t brand an organisation as ‘political’: Supreme Court

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News:Recently,the Supreme Court has held that the central government cannot brand an organisation as political and deprive it of its right to receive foreign funds for using legitimate forms of dissent to aid a public cause.

Facts:

Background:

  • The judgement came on a petition filed by the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) challenging certain provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA),2010 and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules of 2011.

About FCRA Act,2010 and the Rules:

  • The Foreign Contribution(Regulation) Act, 2010 and rules framed under the Act in 2011 regulate the receipt and usage of foreign contribution by non-governmental organisations(NGOs) in India.
  • The act aims to prevent use of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activity detrimental to the national interest.
  • It is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs,Government of India.

Various Provisions challenged in Court:

  • Section 5(1) of the FCRA: It allowed the Centre to decide freely whether a seemingly non-political organisation was actually political in nature.
  • Section 5(4) of the FCRA: It did not exactly identify the authority before which an organisation could represent its grievance.
  • Rule 3 of the 2011 Rules: This provision identified the various types of ‘political’ activities for which/organisations whose foreign funding could be stopped by the government.

About the Judgement:

  • The Court observed that an organisation which supports the cause of a group of citizens agitating for their rights without a political goal or objective cannot be penalised by being declared as an organisation of a political nature.
  • However, foreign funding could be stopped if an organisation took recourse to these forms of protest to score a political goal.