Delhi HC seeks Centre stand on plea by Oxfam against non-renewal of FCRA licence

Justice Prathiba M Singh directed the MHA to file its response within four weeks and listed the matter for further consideration in April.

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IANS Photo

NH Digital

The Delhi High Court on Monday sought the Centre's stand on a petition by NGO Oxfam India against non-renewal of its licence under the law pertaining to foreign contributions.

Justice Prathiba M Singh issued notice on the organisation's petition and asked the central government to respond to the plea as well as an application seeking interim relief of stay in four weeks.

"In the reply, the reason for non-renewal shall be elaborated," the judge said.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma said that the government will file its reply and it will have "sensitive information".

The senior law officer said while the organisation has received funds from UNICEF, it does perform "child welfare" work.

Senior advocate Ramesh Singh, appearing for the petitioner, said that functioning of the organisation has been hampered and it ought to be permitted to use a sum of Rs 21 crore received by it when the registration was still valid.

He also said the funds from UNICEF were received for humanitarian purposes and the body is not identified as "foreign source" in law.

In the plea filed through lawyer Prabhsahay Kaur, the petitioner said that its application for renewal of licence under the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA) was declined in a "non-speaking/ unreasoned cryptic" manner on the ground that "the acceptance of foreign contribution by the applicant is likely to affect prejudicially, the public interest".

The plea said the rejection is in gross violation of principles of natural justice and the rejection order passed on December 1 last year is "riddled with bald-bare findings, sans any reference to material or evidence" and based on "baseless, unfounded, and arbitrary grounds".

"The respondent has closed all doors for the petitioner to seek renewal of its FCRA registration, essentially amounting to the petitioner's depreciated working in India," it said.

"In rejecting the petitioner's revision application, the respondent has turned a blind eye towards the colossal work done by the petitioner over the past many decades in the social sector, and outright rejection of the petitioner's renewal has not only impacted the petitioner, but also adversely affected, and continues to affect on each day, multiple social projects running in 16 states, impacting lakhs of people in the country," the plea said.

The petitioner highlighted that its domestic contribution was not enough to meet its commitments and it has already shut down seven of its regional offices in the country and lost nearly 180 of its 252 employees.

It has been stated that Oxfam is working in nearly 300 villages in India and is engaged in 15 significant projects. But because of the suspension of the licence, barring three-four of these projects, funded through domestic money, the rest have come to a grinding halt. The petitioner said that the organisation has religiously fulfilled legal requirements.

With inputs from PTI

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