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UN experts ask Govt of India to repeal "obstructive" foreign currency regulation Act, as it's "against" global norms

UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders Michel Forst
By Our Representative
Three top United Nations human rights experts have called on the Government of India to repeal the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which they say is being “increasingly used to obstruct civil society’s access to foreign funding”. They have said in a statement, the FCRA contradicts “international human rights norms and standards.”
Close on the heels of the UN experts’ statement, ironically, the Government of India barred yet another well-known social activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Sabrang Trust from getting funds under the FCRA. Javed Anand, husband of Setalvad and secretary of Sabrang Trust, said, the cancellation “showed a complete non-application of mind”.
“That the cancellation order was imminent was apparent from the mere show of a personal hearing granted to Sabrang Trust on April 11, 2016. The hearing was over in less than 10 minutes”, Anand said, adding, the trust “will actively explore all legal options to challenge the home ministry order.”
The UN experts who gave the joint statement on FCRA, posted on the site of the UN Human Rights Commission, are UN special rapporteurs on human rights defenders Michel Forst, on freedom of expression David Kaye, and on freedom of association Maina Kiai.
They said, “We are alarmed that FCRA provisions are being used more and more to silence organisations involved in advocating civil, political, economic, social, environmental or cultural priorities, which may differ from those backed by the Government.”
Teesta Setalvad
The experts’ call came as the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs suspended for six months the registration of the non-governmental organization Lawyers Collective, under the FCRA. The suspension was imposed on the basis of allegations that its founders, human rights lawyers Indira Jaising and Anand Grover, violated the act provisions by using foreign funding for purposes other than intended.
“Despite detailed evidence provided by the NGO to rebut all allegations and prove that all foreign contributions were spent and accounted for in line with FCRA, the suspension was still applied”, the UN experts’ statement says.
“We are alarmed by reports that the suspension was politically motivated and was aimed at intimidating, delegitimising and silencing Lawyers Collective for their litigation and criticism of the Government’s policies,” the noted, adding, “The NGO is known for its public interest litigation and advocacy in defence of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of Indian society.”
“We are also concerned about procedural irregularities surrounding the order, including repeatedly leaked information to the press of suspension notices against the Lawyers Collective months before those were formally served to the NGO,” they stated.
The UN experts recalled the “outstanding national and international profile as human rights lawyers of Jaising, a former member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and Grover, who was the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health from 2008 to 2014.”
“We strongly urge the Government to reverse its decision and embrace the invaluable contribution of the two prominent human rights defenders in upholding constitutional values in India,” the experts said, adding, “We encourage the authorities to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society, which play a critical role in holding the Government to account and buttressing the Indian democracy.”
The exerts said, the founders of Lawyers Collective were “targeted” partly due to their legal assistance to “human rights defender Teesta Setalvad in a separate FCRA suspension, ordered in September 2015 against Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace, both headed by Setalvad.”
“Human rights defenders and civil society must have the ability to do their important job without being subjected to increased limitations on their access to foreign funding and the undue suspension of their registration on the basis of burdensome administrative requirements imposed to those organizations in receipt of foreign funds,” the experts insisted.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I will tell you a little story. You have heard the eloquent speaker who has just finished say, "Let us cease from abusing each other," and he was very sorry that there should be always so much variance.

But I think I should tell you a story which would illustrate the cause of this variance. A frog lived in a well. It had lived there for a long time. It was born there and brought up there, and yet was a little, small frog. Of course the evolutionists were not there then to tell us whether the frog lost its eyes or not, but, for our story's sake, we must take it for granted that it had its eyes, and that it every day cleansed the water of all the worms and bacilli that lived in it with an energy that would do credit to our modern bacteriologists. In this way it went on and became a little sleek and fat. Well, one day another frog that lived in the sea came and fell into the well.

"Where are you from?"

"I am from the sea."

"The sea! How big is that? Is it as big as my well?" and he took a leap from one side of the well to the other.

"My friend," said the frog of the sea, "how do you compare the sea with your little well?”

Then the frog took another leap and asked, "Is your sea so big?"

"What nonsense you speak, to compare the sea with your well!"

"Well, then," said the frog of the well, "nothing can be bigger than my well; there can be nothing bigger than this; this fellow is a liar, so turn him out."

That has been the difficulty all the while.

I am a Hindu. I am sitting in my own little well and thinking that the whole world is my little well. The Christian sits in his little well and thinks the whole world is his well. The Mohammedan sits in his little well and thinks that is the whole world. I have to thank you of America for the great attempt you are making to break down the barriers of this little world of ours, and hope that, in the future, the Lord will help you to accomplish your purpose.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

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