Thoughts on economics and liberty

FCRA Act and the case for its repeal + the shambles that is the government of India

The government of India is beyond pathetic. Everything is messed up. I was searching for the details regarding the latest amendments to the FCRA Act but there is no hope of finding anything post-2010 on the internet.

The Indiacode website is in shambles. It contains a PDF (not even Word, and not even properly formatted) version of the 2010 Act but no rules, regulations or anything else.


The FCRA website of the GOI is even worse! It has a scanned copy of a hardcopy law. That too, of 2010, without any further amendment. There is no reference to anything else, including amendments which were passed in the recent budget.

I’ve now OCR’d the 2010 Act as a Word document (download here). When time permits I hope to somehow find the later amendments to figure out the latest position regarding the Act. The SHAME THAT IS INDIAN GOVERNMENT IS BEYOND BELIEF. CAN’T EVEN GET THE LATEST LAW. Everything takes 100 times more time than it would in an even remotely developed country.


Came across this (Time to repeal the FCRA by G. Sampat). He wants the FCRA scrapped and replaced with a self-regulatory agency. I am largely persuaded by his arguments:

Sampat’s key arguments below:

a political class that has no qualms taking money from foreign sources, that amended the FCRA to let itself off the hook for past violations, that opened the doors for all political parties to accept foreign funding, that paved the way for Indian businesses to access foreign capital, is now anxious to prevent CSOs from accessing foreign funds because some of them question its policies in a democratic battle to protect constitutional rights and entitlements.

Last April, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association undertook a legal analysis of the FCRA, 2010. He submitted a note to the Indian government which stated unambiguously that the FCRA provisions and rules “are not in conformity with international law, principles and standards”.

The UN Special Rapporteur’s argument was fairly straightforward. The right to freedom of association is incorporated under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party. Access to resources, particularly foreign funding, is part of the right to freedom of association. While this is not an absolute right and is subject to restrictions, those have to be precise, and defined in a way that “would enable a CSO to know in advance whether its activities could reasonably be construed to be in violation of the Act”.

restrictions in the name of “public interest” and “economic interest” as invoked under the FCRA rules fail the test of “legitimate restrictions”. The terms are too vague and give the state excessive discretionary powers to apply the provision in an arbitrary manner. Besides, given that the right to freedom of association is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 20), a violation of this right also constitutes a human rights violation.

I’ll review this in the coming weeks, as time permits.




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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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