Sunday, March 3, 2024

Centre for Policy Research’s FCRA license cancelled by Home Ministry

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration of Centre for Policy Research (CPR) on account of the organization’s “violation” of the Act.

CPR’s President calls the grounds on which the decision is based as “incomprehensible and disproportionate” aimed to dismantle the working of the research institution.

The Ministry had suspended the FCRA registration of CPR back on 27 February 2023 for a duration of 180 days, which was later extended. This registration, which assists the research organization to receive donations from foreign sources, was discontinued on grounds of violation of the Act. Prior to this, an income tax survey was conducted the premises of the company back in February 2022. 

“After suspending the license, the inquiry was initiated and it was decided that the licence should be cancelled as the CPR’s activities are likely to affect the economic interest of the state and the violations are grave in nature,” an official told The Indian Express.

The Centre for Policy Research is an independent public policy think tank, and is amidst the leading research institutions in India since 1973. It received the cancellation order on January 10, 2024, for publishing reports on “current affairs programmes” thereby violating the FCRA. This is one of the reasons mentioned on the Home Ministry website.  

The organization has released a statement by its president, Yamini Aiyar, expressing their absolute adherence with the law as well as full and exhaustive cooperation through the entire process.

“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. This includes the publication on our website of policy reports emanating from our research being equated with current affairs programming,” she said.

Aiyar said that the “survey” and subsequent cancellation of the FCRA certificate has had an impairing consequence on the functioning of the institution as all sources of funding were blocked.

“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’ existence. During this time the institution has been home to some of the country’s most distinguished academics, diplomats and policymakers,” she further expressed.

In October 2023, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had conveyed to the Delhi high Court about CPR receiving foreign fundings for “purposes other than what it was registered and is using the same for undesirable purposes”. This allegation, which was Centre’s response to CPR’s plea against the suspension order filed on February 27, was backed by the relevant evidences shared by the IT Department with the Home Ministry from the survey operation carried out in September 2022. 

The affidavit further stated that the CPR’s actions would probably deter the economic interests of the state as the violations were grave in nature. Thus the suspension of the certificate of registration was carried out without issuing any notice.

The IT department had stated that the institution issued payments to persons who did not file their individual Income Tax returns. It also alleged the CPR to have produced books for commercial gains.

On Tuesday, Aiyar told The Hindu that the working of the organization has been within the framework of the law. She expressed, “The cancellation of our FCRA is distressing, for it is a cancellation that is disproportionate and without adequate opportunity to be heard. We will weigh our options to seek justice. We remain committed to our core goals and remain steadfast in our belief that this matter will be resolved in line with constitutional values and guarantees.”

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