HC asks govt to respond to plea by Centre for Policy Research challenging suspension of FCRA licence

The Delhi High Court Tuesday sought the response of the central government on a plea by prominent public policy think tank, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), challenging the suspension of its Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence over alleged violation of laws.

Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notice to the Centre on the petition and listed the matter for further hearing on September 5.

The high court asked the Centre to decide by September 5 CPR’s application seeking release of 25 per cent of its funds, noting that three months have passed since the organisation gave certain clarifications to the authorities but no order on its request has been passed yet.

The Centre had suspended the organisation’s FCRA licence on February 27 following which CPR submitted an application to the authorities in March seeking release of 25 per cent of its frozen funds for paying salary to its employees.

The counsel for the Centre said they sought certain clarifications from the organisation which were tendered only on May 15.

The court was informed that as per Rule 14 of FCRA Rules, when the certificate of registration is suspended, upto 25 per cent of the unutilised amount may be spent with prior approval of the central government for declared aims and objects’ for which the foreign contribution was received.

The counsel for the Centre said, after getting the application the authorities asked for records and replies which they gave only on May 15.

She said the procedure is being followed and that the government is carrying out the exercise diligently.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing CPR, argued that the order suspending the licence was passed without any inquiry.

He prayed that the funds be released as an interim measure to enable the public policy think tank to pay salary to its employees who have not been paid for the last six months.

Seeking an interim stay on the suspension order, Datar submitted that without foreign contributions, CPR will be forced to shut down. He said its operations have come to a grinding halt in the last six months and 83 scientists and employees have left the organisation.

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The Ministry of Home Affairs has suspended the FCRA licence of CPR over alleged violation of funding laws. The FCRA licence of CPR was last renewed in 2016 and was due for renewal in 2021,

The organisation had earlier said it continued to cooperate fully with authorities and was in complete compliance with the law. It said it was routinely scrutinised and audited by government authorities, including the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

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

The donors of CPR included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Pennsylvania, the World Resources Institute and the Duke University, the officials had earlier said.

According to CPR’s website, it was founded by academician V A Pai Panindiker and former members of its governing board included ex-prime minister Manmohan Singh and former Chief Justice of India the late Y V Chandrachud.

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