Govt cancels FCRA registration of Centre for Policy Research, can’t receive foreign funds


PTI, Jan 17, 2024, 6:03 PM IST

New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) for alleged violation of laws, a move the public think-tank termed “incomprehensible and disproportionate” and vowed to seek legal recourse against.

When the FCRA registration of an organisation is cancelled or suspended, it is barred from receiving any funding from abroad or foreign donors.

The MHA action came nearly a year after it suspended the NGO’s registration under the FCRA.

In a statement, the CPR said the home ministry “actions have had a debilitating impact on the institution’s ability to function by choking all sources of funding”.

The think-tank was under scrutiny after a survey was carried out by the Income Tax department in September 2022.

The home ministry has cancelled the FCRA registration of the Centre for Policy Research for alleged violations of the provisions of the foreign funding laws, a home ministry official said on Wednesday.

The FCRA licence was suspended in February 2023 for 180 days and then extended for another 180 days.

In October 2022, the central government had cancelled the FCRA registration of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) and the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT), both NGOs headed by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, for alleged violation of laws.

According to its website, the Centre for Policy Research (CPR) has been one of India’s leading public policy think-tanks since 1973.

It says that it is a non-profit, non-partisan, independent institution dedicated to conducting research that contributes to high quality scholarship, better policies, and a more robust public discourse about issues that impact life in India.

The donors of the CPR included the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, World Bank, Ford Foundation, Brown University besides others.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former chief justice of India late Y V Chandrachud and veteran journalist late B G Verghese were among the prominent people who have served as the members of the CPR governing body.

When the CPR challenged its suspension in the Delhi High Court, the MHA had argued that the organisation’s foreign funding needed to be stopped as it was receiving the contributions for “undesirable purposes” likely to affect the country’s economic interest.

The home ministry had alleged the CPR transferred foreign contributions to other entities and deposited the contributions in non-designated accounts in violation of FCRA.

The CPR said in a statement on Wednesday that it has received a notice from the ministry cancelling its FCRA status.

“The basis of this decision is incomprehensible and disproportionate, and some of the reasons given challenge the very basis of the functioning of a research institution,” it said.

The CPR said this includes the publication on its website of policy reports emanating from the research being equated with current affairs programming.

“During the tenure of our suspension, we sought and obtained interim redress from the honourable Delhi High Court and will continue to seek recourse in all avenues possible,” it said.

The think-tank said this has undermined the institution’s ability to pursue its well established objective of producing high quality, globally recognised research on policy matters, which it has been recognised for over its 50 years of existence.

During this time, the institution has been home to some of the country’s most distinguished academics, diplomats and policymakers, it said.

The CPR said it is a 50-year-old institution that has a proud legacy of deep contributions to India’s policy-making ecosystem, and over the past five decades has been home to many distinguished faculty, researchers and members of the board.

“CPR firmly reiterates that it is in complete compliance with the law, and has been cooperating fully and exhaustively at every step of the process.

“We remain steadfast in our belief that this matter will be resolved in line with constitutional values and guarantees,” it said in the statement.

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