Cancellation and non-renewal of FCRA licences: Supreme Court to examine whether the pending petitions are infructuous

The court has scheduled the petitions for hearing on November 21, after petitioners and respondents claimed that as its judgment in Noel Harper covered the issues in the petitions, nothing survived.


A division bench of the Supreme Court scheduled for November 21 the hearing of petitions challenging the cancellation and non-renewal of registration under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (‘FCRA’) of about 6,000 non-government organisations (‘NGOs’) by the Union Home Ministry. This, in spite of the counsel for the petitioners and the respondent requesting the court to dispose of the petitions, filed in January.

The bench, comprising Justices K.M. Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy, was hearing the case of Global Peace Initiative & Anr. versus Union of India.

Senior advocate Sanjay R. Hegde, representing the petitioners, submitted to the court that most of the issues raised in the petitions were covered by the Supreme Court’s judgment in Noel Harper versus Union of India, delivered in April.

In Noel Harper, the Supreme Court had upheld the 2020 amendment to the FCRA that circumscribes the ability of NGOs to raise and avail of foreign funds, and dismissed challenges to the same.

Hegde had further requested the bench to dispose of the petition and grant the petitioners liberty to make a representation to the Union Government relating to certain ancillary issues that arose due to the FCRA amendment of 2020.

Additional Solicitor General of India, Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Union Government, agreed that the petitions need not remain pending in light of the resolution of the issues raised in them by the court in Noel Harper.

The bench, however, decided to adjourn the matter, on the ground that it would first go through the court’s judgment in Noel Harper in order to determine whether  all the issues raised in the instant petitions are actually covered by it.

The instant petitions have challenged the Union Home Ministry’s public notice dated December 31, 2021 inasmuch as it bars organisations whose FCRA registration certificate renewal applications were denied by the Ministry, from receiving further foreign funds or utilising any foreign funds received. They also seek a direction to the Union Government to exempt all NGOs, under Section 50 of the FCRA, from the operation of the FCRA till COVID-19 continues to remain a notified disaster under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The petitions reason that the cancellation or non-renewal of FCRA registrations of almost 6,000 NGOs, being sudden and arbitrary, is violative of the rights of these NGOs, their workers, and the thousands of citizens provided relief by them.