UN rights chief tells India to safeguard rights of NGOs; MEA says law violations can't be condoned

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet specifically cited as 'worrying' the use of FCRA, which prohibits the receipt of foreign funds 'for any activities prejudicial to the public interest.'

Press Trust of India October 21, 2020 00:00:36 IST
UN rights chief tells India to safeguard rights of NGOs; MEA says law violations can't be condoned

File image of MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava. ANI

New Delhi: India on Tuesday strongly reacted to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet's concern over restrictions on NGOs and arrest of activists, saying violations of law cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights and a more informed view of the matter was expected of the UN body.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava also asserted that India was a democratic polity based on the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

"We have seen some comments by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on an issue relating to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). India is a democratic polity based on the rule of law and an independent judiciary. The framing of laws is obviously a sovereign prerogative. Violations of law, however, cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights. A more informed view of the matter was expected of a UN body," Srivastava said.

Earlier, Bachelet expressed concern over the restrictions on foreign funding for the NGOs and the arrest of activists in the country.

She appealed to the Indian Government to "safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry out their crucial work" on behalf of the many groups they represent.

"India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of groundbreaking human rights advocacy within the country and globally," she said in a statement.

"But I am concerned that vaguely defined laws are increasingly being used to stifle these voices," she said.

Bachelet specifically cited as "worrying" the use of the FCRA, which prohibits the receipt of foreign funds "for any activities prejudicial to the public interest."

As per the amended FCRA law, furnishing of Aadhaar numbers by office-bearers of NGOs has become mandatory for registration. The Act also provides for a reduction in administrative expenses of any NGO receiving foreign funding, from 50 percent to 20 percent of annual funds to ensure spending on their main objectives.

The government has maintained that the legislation was not against any NGO and was an effort to maintain transparency.

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