In News: Government is slowly chipping away at the rights of civil society groups using laws such as FCRA, PMLA
- It is being reported that the Indian state is deeply suspicious of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society leaders.
- The Constitution and law sought to protect minority communities and mandated equal rights and protection from the state to persons of all faiths and identities.
- According to that idea of India, these rights were deemed essential for the consolidation of the Indian state where citizens needed to feel a sense of belonging.
- Even though civil society organisations have contributed to the constitutional frame, they undoubtedly need to be regulated for defending those values.
Ways in which Civil Society is Targeted
- The Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA), and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), used in conjunction with a range of other measures such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), are deployed by the government
- Indian NGOs need an FCRA clearance for using foreign funds for developmental work.
- NGOs now needed to renew their licences every five years.
- Cancellation of License: Of the 16,692 NGOs that lost their licences between 2015 and 2022, 16,679 were denied the right between 2015 and 2019 before the Act was amended in 2020.
- A cursory look at these withdrawals suggests that increased compliance requirements enabled the state to flush out a large number of NGOs.
- FCRA amendment of 2020
- NGOs could spend less on administrative costs.
- All NGOs were required to operate their foreign accounts through the State Bank of India’s branch located at Parliament Street in New Delhi. This would enable the state to track foreign funding organisations even more closely.
- The tax-free status of domestic donations would be reviewed every five years.
- Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) has been reimagined as a tool against civil society leaders and politicians.
- The Enforcement Directorate (ED) of the Department of Revenue has wide-ranging powers to search and arrest citizens under the PMLA.
- The ED was used to attack NGOs such as Amnesty International and the Centre for Equity Studies that have worked incessantly for minority rights.
FCRA and PMLA are potent weapons for subduing the pluralistic nature of Indian society that is at the heart of India’s democracy. Social values can be saved if democratic politics protects those values.
Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)
- It was enacted in January 2003 and the Act along with the Rules framed there under has come into force with effect from 1st July 2005.
Definition of money laundering
- 3 of PMLA defines offence of money laundering as whosoever directly or indirectly attempts to indulge or knowingly assists or knowingly is a party or is actually involved in any process or activity connected with the proceeds of crime and projecting it as untainted property shall be guilty of offence of money-laundering.
- PMLA prescribes the obligation of banking companies, financial institutions and intermediaries for verification and maintenance of records of the identity of all its clients and also of all transactions and for furnishing information of such transactions in a prescribed form to the Financial Intelligence Unit-India (FIU-IND).
Empowerment of officers:
- PMLA empowers certain officers of the Directorate of Enforcement to carry out investigations in cases involving offence of money laundering and also to attach the property involved in money laundering.
Setting up of Authority:
- PMLA envisages setting up of an Adjudicating Authority to exercise jurisdiction, power and authority conferred by it essentially to confirm attachment or order confiscation of attached properties.
- It also envisages setting up of an Appellate Tribunal to hear appeals against the order of the Adjudicating Authority and the authorities like Director FIU-IND.
- It envisages designation of one or more courts of sessions as Special Court or Special Courts to try the offences punishable under PMLA and offences with which the accused may, under the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, be charged at the same trial.
Source: The Hindu
Must Read: Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)
Previous Year Question
Q.1) At the national level, which ministry is the nodal agency to ensure effective implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006? (2021)
- Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
- Ministry of Panchayati Raj
- Ministry of Rural Development
- Ministry of Tribal Affairs