SC tells govt to decide on regulating NGOs in four weeks

The court was hearing a writ petition filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, alleging misuse of funds by Anna Hazare’s NGO Hind Swaraj Trust <br>

Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

NH Web Desk

The apex court on Wednesday gave four weeks to Centre to examine bringing in a legislation to regulate funds for NGOs. or make provisions for prosecution in the event of misuse or misappropriation of funds or non-filing of annual statements.

The top court’s direction follows the submission made by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that certain instructions were required to be taken “from the top level” to bring in a legislation or draft some guidelines and also include some penal provisions.

The court was hearing the writ petition filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, alleging misuse of funds by Anna Hazare’s NGO Hind Swaraj Trust. It had earlier expanded the scope of Sharma’s PIL plea to include the status of all NGOs.

“See, these are serious issues. Make a fair decision. Our direction is already there. Just implement it to give the authorities more teeth,” a bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar told the ASG, as reported by The court was hearing a PIL filed by advocate ML Sharma for keeping a tab on the functioning of the NGOs.

According to the report, the bench earlier expressed unhappiness over the proposed guidelines to keep a tab on the nearly 30 lakh NGOs in the country, saying “it may not meet the enormity of the situation due to the non-accountability of the funds given to the NGOs.”

On direction from the bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who submitted the draft guidelines, had handed over a copy to Amicus curiae Rakesh Dwivedi for including his suggestions and inputs, the report added.

Previously, in January, the Supreme Court had pulled up the Centre for no provision to monitor the funding of NGOs. It directed the government to audit nearly 30 lakh NGOs which received public funds but consistently failed to submit their returns or balance sheets and other financial details to the authorities.

The Supreme Court demanded that the government file a compliance report by March 31. On April 5, the Centre had submitted to the Supreme Court fresh draft guidelines for accreditation of NGOs and voluntary organisations.

CBI records filed in the Supreme Court show that only 2,90,787 NGOs out of a total of 29,99,623 registered under the Societies Registration Act file balance sheet with the authorities.

In some states, the CBI said the laws do not even provide for the NGOs to be transparent about their financial dealings.

In the Union Territories, out of a total of 82,250 NGOs registered and functioning, only 50 file their returns.

New Delhi has the highest number of registered NGOs among the union territories at 76,566. But none of these organisations submit returns, the CBI chart showed. In Kerala, which has 3,69,137 NGOs, there is no legal provision to submit returns. The same is the case for Punjab, with 84,752, and Rajasthan, with 1.3 lakh NGOs.

Among other States, Uttar Pradesh, which has the highest number of NGOs at 5.48 lakh among 26 states, has only about 1.19 lakh filing returns. Tamil Nadu has about 1.55 lakh NGOs registered but only 20,277 file returns. Andhra Pradesh has 2.92 lakh NGOs, though only 186 file financial statements annually. West Bengal has 2.34 lakh registered NGOs, of which only 17,089 active NGOs file annual returns.

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