HC allows Centre for Policy Research to utilise portion of its funds to pay salary to employees

In a relief to think-tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR), whose FCRA licence stands suspended over alleged violation of rules, the Delhi High Court on Monday permitted it to utilise a portion of its funds in fixed deposits for payment of salary to its employees.

The high court allowed CPR’s application seeking permission to utilise 25 per cent of its funds lying in fixed deposits for payment of salary to its employees who have not been paid for the last several months.

Justice Subramonium Prasad, while pronouncing the interim order, said, “The application is allowed. List the writ petition for hearing on January 11, 2024.”

The application forms part of the organisation’s petition challenging the suspension of its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence over alleged violation of laws.

The CPR, represented by senior advocate Arvind Datar, had earlier argued that according to the rules framed under FCRA, when the certificate of registration is suspended, up to 25 per cent of the “unutilised amount” — which was the fixed deposit amount in the instant plea — may be spent for certain aims and objects.

The Centre has opposed the application, with its lawyer arguing before the high court that “unutilised amount” means an amount that is “unspent” and funds in fixed deposits are outside its ambit.

Earlier, the court had asked the Centre to state the prejudice that would be caused to the authorities if the petitioner’s request was allowed.

The Centre’s lawyer had said the CPR “was not the only one” and changing the definition of “unutilised amount” will have “huge ramifications”.

The Centre had suspended the organisation’s FCRA licence on February 27. In March, the CPR gave an application to the authorities seeking the release of 25 per cent of its funds for paying the salaries.

In response to the petition by the organisation against the decision, the Centre has alleged that the CPR was receiving and using foreign contribution for “purposes other than for which it was registered” as well as for “undesirable purposes”.

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It also said the petitioner’s foreign funding had to be stopped with immediate effect in order to safeguard the country’s economic interests and prevent misutilisation of funds.

The FCRA licence of the CPR was last renewed in 2016 and was due for renewal in 2021.

In a statement, the CPR had earlier said the Ministry of Home Affairs had intimated it about its registration under FCRA getting suspended for a period of 180 days.

In September 2022, the income-tax department conducted a survey at the organisation’s premises, and as part of the follow-up process, the CPR received several notices from the department, it had said.

With the suspension of its FCRA licence, the organisation is not able to receive any funds from abroad.

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