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Suspension of Amnesty International Operations in India

  • 30 Sep 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Amnesty International India has halted its human rights operations in India due to the freezing of its bank accounts by the Government of India.

Key Points

  • Argument by Amnesty: It has alleged that the government has frozen its bank accounts due to repeated calls for transparency and against the human rights violations in the country.
    • The European Union (EU) has also expressed its concerns against the action of the government citing the valued work of Amnesty International worldwide.
    • Recently, Amnesty International (AI) India had demanded an independent investigation into all allegations of human rights violations by the police during the north-east Delhi riots and the establishment of the National Commission for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Argument by the Government: The government has accused Amnesty of defying the law of the land.
    • India doesn't allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well.
    • In order to circumvent the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 (FCRA) regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
    • A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs under FCRA. This rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions.
  • Background: In the past five years, the government has taken action against several foreign donors including Compassion International, World Movement for Democracy (WMD), Greenpeace, etc on grounds of FCRA violations.
  • New Rules for NGOs under FCRA amendment, 2020:
    • The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 was passed by the Parliament amending Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
    • In order to receive foreign funds, an NGO has to register with the Ministry of Home Affairs. It is assigned a unique FCRA registration number, to be renewed every five years.
    • Every FCRA-registered NGO will have to open an FCRA-marked bank account with a designated branch of State Bank of India in New Delhi.
    • The cap on administrative expenses has been lowered from 50% of foreign funds received to 20%.
    • It prohibits the transfer of foreign grants received by an entity to a partner organisation or an associated person, which is a usual practice.
    • Criticism: This has been criticized as an act to suppress the NGOs that dissent against the government.
    • Advantage: This has strengthened the compliance mechanism, enhancing transparency and accountability, and will help in curbing fraud and threats of the sovereignty of the country in the name of NGOs.

Amnesty International

  • It is an international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) founded in London (UK) in 1961.
  • It seeks to publicize violations by governments and other entities of rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), especially freedom of speech and of conscience and the right against torture.
  • In 1977, it was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
  • AI India is a part of the global human rights movement spearheaded by Amnesty International. It has its registered office in Bangalore (Karnataka).

Source: TH

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