Gauhati High Court Questions FCRA Amendment Act

Synopsis: The Gauhati High Court questions the new FCRA Amendment Act.

Introduction:

An Assam-based NGO has filed a petition in the Gauhati High Court against an amended provision of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act(FCRA). As the amendment makes Aadhaar mandatory for opening and operating the account in Delhi.

FCRA Amendment Act, 2020:

  • The FCRA amendment has made it compulsory for the NGOs to open an exclusive Bank account with the State Bank of India in New Delhi to receive foreign donations.
  • The amendments also make it mandatory to provide the Aadhaar details of the chief functionaries, trustees and office-bearers. This is for opening and operating a bank account in Delhi.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs has given the deadline of March 31st, 2021 to open this bank account.
  • However, if the NGOs failed to open the bank account before the deadline. Then they will not be able to receive fresh foreign funds from April 1,2021 in the existing accounts. But they could utilise the money that already exists in the old account.
What are the issues with these FCRA Amendments?
  • Several NGOs have filed a petition in the Gauhati High Court. It is against making Aadhaar mandatory for opening and operating the account in Delhi.
  • They have said that they are not able to open bank accounts as they do not fulfil the eligibility criteria (since they don’t have an Aadhaar card).
  • Further, several NGOs have also asked for an exemption from the Union Home Ministry deadline. It is to open an FCRA account with the SBI branch in New Delhi.
  • It said that only 16% of registered NGOs have active bank accounts with the State Bank of India’s main branch in Delhi.
What has the Gauhati High Court said on FCRA Amendments?
  • The Gauhati High Court has sent a notice to the State Bank of India(SBI) asking it to explain why Aadhaar was necessary to open a bank account.
  • The Court also referred to the 2018 Supreme Court judgement in the K.S. Puttaswamy (Aadhaar) case. During this case, the apex court had ruled that mandatorily linking Aadhaar to a bank account “does not satisfy the Doctrine of proportionality”.

Note: The Doctrine of proportionality: It is a principle where courts would examine priorities and processes of the administration for reaching or recalling a decision. Proportionality means that the administrative action should not be more drastic than it ought to be for obtaining the desired result. This implies that a missile should not be used to shoot a sparrow. Thus, this doctrine tries to balance means with ends.

 Source: The Hindu

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