MHA revokes Church of North India's FCRA licence

New Delhi: The Union home ministry has revoked the Foreign Contribution Registration Act (FCRA) licence of prominent evangelical organisation, the Church of North India (CNI), active since 1970, for alleged violations of rules, said officials. They said the trust cannot receive or utilise foreign contributions until the licence is renewed. CNI came into existence through the merger of six different churches including the Church of India (formerly known as the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon).

The CNI’s Synodical Board of Social Services runs various programmes such as women’s fellowship for Christian services, Synodical Youth fellowship programme and recently planned to develop 15,000 nutrition gardens in the next three years using organic farming, it said. CNI receives donations from various countries including the United States, Europe and Canada. An email query sent to CNI Trust remained unanswered at the time of filing of report.

The NGOs with FCRA licence are required to apply for renewal of the licence but the deadline was extended from September 2020 when the amendments to the FCRA law were introduced. The extensions have been granted to all the NGOs till March 31, 2024, during which some prominent NGOs’ FCRA licences were renewed. According to the ministry data, there are 16,933 NGOs with FCRA licence active in India as of today out of which fresh registration for 1,020 trusts has been approved in 2023 so far.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) grants FCRA licence for five years and reviews applications based on annual returns and foreign grants received for the purpose they were meant for. Any misuse or diversion of foreign funds by NGOs is considered a violation of the FCRA. Earlier, the ministry cancelled the FCRA licence of YWCA Delhi citing diversion of funds. The women-centric NGO, set up in 1912, runs several working women’s hostels across Delhi.

In the past one year, more than 100s NGOs, including Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust, headed by former Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, Oxfam India, Centre for Policy Research (CPR) and Care India have had their FCRA licences cancelled, suspended, denied renewal or deemed to have expired. Oxfam, CPR and Care India were raided by the Income-Tax department in 2022.

Recently, the home ministry suspended the FCRA registration of activist-author Harsh Mander‘s Centre For Equity Studies while it earlier ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation probe against Oxfam India on charges of alleged FCRA violations.

The alleged violations included funds routed to CPR through its associates and employees in the form of commission. The Income-Tax Department carried out surveys on Oxfam India, CPR India and Care India in September last year.

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William Murphy

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