India should end funding restraints on Human Rights Defenders, Says HRW

November 5, 2013

The Indian government should vigorously investigate allegations that officials are using the law on foreign contributions to repress groups critical of the government, Human Rights Watch said on 31 October 2013.


The government should amend the 2010 Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act to protect the right to freedom of association and expression.


“The Indian government is using the Foreign Contribution Act to make advocacy groups toe the line,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Nonprofit and advocacy groups say officials harass them with constant queries and threaten investigations in apparently deliberate efforts to curtail dissent.

In recent months, the Foreign Contribution Act has been used by Indian authorities to prevent organizations that question or criticize government policies and practices from receiving funding from abroad, Human Rights Watch said.

[The Foreign Contribution Act was enacted to prohibit political parties, politicians, and election candidates from accepting foreign support to ensure that Indian elections were not affected by foreign interests. But provisions were also included making it compulsory for associations to register with the government before accepting any foreign contributions and for all nongovernmental organizations to renew their certification every five years. Under the law, the central government can also restrict those allowed to obtain prior permission before accepting a foreign contribution, and to require information about what the contribution will be used for, the source of the funding, and how it is received.]

UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, visited India in 2011, and expressed concerns that the act could lead to abuse by the authorities when reviewing applications of groups critical of the government. Sekaggya then sensibly recommended that the National Human Rights Commission “monitor the denial of registration and permission to receive foreign funding for NGOs,” with a view to amending or repealing the law.

India is setting a bad precedent in the region because several other countries are contemplating laws similar to India’s to restrict advocacy groups, Human Rights Watch said. It called on the Indian authorities to investigate all denials, delays and cancellation of Foreign Contribution Act requests, and to reverse all decisions that are arbitrary, illegitimate, or influenced by political interests.

The government praises India’s robust civil society as a sign of the strength of the country’s democracy while at the same time using the Foreign Contribution Act to quash criticism it doesn’t like,” Ganguly said.

India: End Funding Restraints On Organizations, Says HRW Eurasia Review.


4 Responses to “India should end funding restraints on Human Rights Defenders, Says HRW”

  1. […] India should end funding restraints on Human Rights Defenders, Says HRW ( […]

  2. […] Indian lawyer and human rights defender Henri Tiphagne has been awarded the 8th Human Rights Award by Amnesty International Germany. The award is a recognition of Henri Tiphagne’s exceptional commitment to human rights. “For many decades now, Henri Tiphagne has been tirelessly and bravely standing up for human rights. His organisation’s invaluable work includes campaigning against discrimination and the use of torture in India,” Amnesty International said in a statement on 25 January 2016. Henri Tiphagne is the founder of the organisation People’s Watch, one of the most notable human rights organisations in India. People’s Watch has been researching and documenting human rights violations, as well as providing legal representation to those affected, for over 20 years. The organisation also actively supports human rights education: In 1997, Henri Tiphagne founded an institute offering training for teachers as well as mentoring around school human rights education programmes. So far, they have managed to reach out to around 500,000 children in 18 Indian states. In recent years, many organisations have come under intense pressure by the Indian government, and People’s Watch is no exception. The organisation’s bank accounts have been frozen repeatedly since 2012. This meant that some employees had to be dismissed and many programmes needed to be abandoned. The Delhi government in power at the time used the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act to justify this kind of harassment. A complaint filed by People’s Watch against these government actions is still pending. The same legal framework is being instrumentalised for political ends by the current government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Those targeted by the authorities include non-governmental organisations as well as activists and local protest groups campaigning, for example, against forced evictions to make way for new coal mining projects. […] […]

  3. […] On 16 June 2016 three United Nations rapporteurs on human rights called on the Government of India to repeal a regulation that has been increasingly used to obstruct civil society’s access to foreign funding. The experts’ call comes as the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs suspended for six months the registration of the non-governmental organization Lawyers Collective, under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), according to a news release from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva. [see also my post form 2013:…] […]

  4. […] “We reaffirm our position that the ability to access foreign funding is an integral part of the right to freedom of association, and reiterate our concerns at the highly detrimental impact of the FCRA, which has been increasingly used to obstruct Indi.reiterate our concerns at the highly detrimental impact of the FCRA, which has been increasingly used to obstruct Indian civil society’s access to international funding,” they said. [see also:…] […]

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