In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court has held that a voluntary organisation using legitimate means of dissent in support of a public cause cannot be prohibited to receive foreign contribution.
Lakhs of NGOs working in the country may see a silver lining in the judgement delivered by the top court on March 6.
During the UPA I regime, the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011 were framed making it difficult for the NGOs to get any funds from abroad. A threat always loomed large over these organisations of being declared as of political nature, if they employed ‘bandh’ or ‘hartal’, ‘rasta roko’, ‘rail roko’ or ‘jail bharo’ in support of public causes.
The top court has now declared the organisations which are working for the social and economic welfare of the society cannot be brought within the purview of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 or the rules by enlarging the scope of the term ‘political interests’.
So now, voluntary organisations which have absolutely no connection with either party politics or active politics cannot be denied access to foreign contributions.
The NGOs, which supported 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.
NGOs have played a massive role in the country in various fields particularly in education, health, environment, disaster management, environment protection and rural development. Their act of lending a voice to public causes can certainly not be used as a pretext to drain out their resources, making it impossible for them to survive. However, the law enforcement agencies must remain on guard to ensure that foreign funds received by them are not employed for other than the intended purposes.
Photo credit: India Today