MHA refutes Amnesty International's 'witch-hunt' claims, calls it a ploy to divert attention from illegalities

The human rights watchdog earlier today halted its operation in India, citing reprisals from the government and the freezing of its bank accounts by the Centre

Press Trust of India September 29, 2020 20:54:09 IST
MHA refutes Amnesty International's 'witch-hunt' claims, calls it a ploy to divert attention from illegalities

Amnesty International India office in Bengaluru. PTI

New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry on Tuesday strongly refuted Amnesty International's allegation that it was being subjected to an "incessant witch-hunt", saying India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations.

Coming down heavily on the organisation, the ministry also said all the "glossy statements" about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power is nothing but a "ploy to divert attention" from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws.

Amnesty International's statement was "unfortunate, exaggerated, and far from the truth," the home ministry said.

"Such statements are also an attempt to extraneously influence the course of investigations by multiple agencies into the irregularities and illegalities carried out over the last few years," the home ministry said in a detailed statement.

The home ministry said Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too 20 years ago, on 19 December, 2000.

Since then the organisation, despite its repeated applications, has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per law it is not eligible for it.

However, in order to circumvent the 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 MHA's approval under the FCRA.

"This mala fide rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions," it said.

Owing to these illegal practices of Amnesty, the previous government had also rejected the repeated applications of Amnesty to receive funds from overseas, the home ministry said.

This had led Amnesty to suspend its India operations once during that period as well.

The home ministry said this bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty, under different governments, makes it clear that the entire fault lies in the dubious processes adopted by Amnesty to secure funds for its operations.

The home ministry said Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organisations.

"However, India, by settled law, does not 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," the home ministry statement said.

India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary, and a tradition of vibrant domestic debate, it said.

The people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government, the home ministry said.

"The Amnesty's failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India," it said.

Earlier in the day, Amnesty International said it is halting all its activities in India due to the freezing of its accounts and claimed that it is being subjected to an "incessant witch-hunt" over unfounded and motivated allegations.

The Amnesty India said the organisation has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work.

"The complete freezing of Amnesty International India's bank accounts by the Government of India which it came to know on 10 September 2020, brings all the work being done by the organization to a grinding halt," the Amnesty said in its statement.

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