ABOUT THIS BOOK
The predecessor of FCRA, 2010, viz., FCRA, 1976 was enacted during the emergency. The advent of the new Act/Rules almost after 35 years with somewhat stricter provisions created considerable confusion in the NGO sector. It was just a matter of chance that I was posted as the Deputy Secretary in-charge of the FCRA Wing of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) just at that point of transition when Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976 [FCRA, 1976] was repealed and re-enacted as the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 [FCRA, 2010]. FCRA, 2010 was enacted on 26th September 2010 and came into force with effect from 1st May 2011 simultaneously with FCRR, 2011.
MHA (FCRA Wing) undertook various outreach programmes towards clearing the confusion. MHA, in collaboration with ICICI Bank, brought out an official Handbook on FCRA 2010. ICICI Bank sponsored the Handbook and widely distributed the same. The Handbook aimed at providing relevant information relating to the new Act to general public and various stakeholders like NGOs, chartered accountants, banks, donors, enforcement agencies, etc. I authored the handbook, which was released in February, 2012. The website of MHA in respect of FCRA was revamped and I created the new FAQs and all other related information and various charters for the associations/NGOs and other stakeholders.
As in-charge of MHA’s FCRA Wing, my task was implementation of FCRA, 2010 and Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011. As anyone in my position would have done it, I tried to bring in improvement and transparency in the functioning of the FCRA Wing. I had the opportunity of interacting with innumerable representatives of the NGO Sector and looking into their concerns relating to FCRA matters.
To educate the NGO sector about the new Act/Rules, a number of seminars/workshops were organised by various NGOs throughout the country during the years from 2012 to around 2018. I was also invited to conduct some of those seminars/workshops in various cities. From the feedback received during the course of holding the seminars/workshops, I realised that despite the outreach programmes and clarifications posted on MHA’s website, there is lack of awareness as well as understanding of the Act and that there is indeed a need for a practical and easy guidebook for the practitioners of the Act especially the NGOs. Further, I also found that most people fight shy of the Act because there is some kind of awe about it, especially due to the fact that the Act is administered by MHA. As a result, a number of NGOs approach the so-called consultants and quite often, receive wrong advice. Unfortunately, such wrong advice is also given by some officials of Banks.
Since I had authored the official Handbook on FCRA 2010 of MHA and created the FAQs for MHA’s website and thereafter co-authored another book, I just took it upon myself to write this book in an easy Question & Answer format like the guidebooks one studies in school and college for a quick understanding of the subject. This book is the result of my experience in dealing with the NGO Sector in the capacity of a government official and post-retirement, through holding several seminars/workshops on FCRA in some parts of the country. While writing the book I kept in mind the readers I targeted ‒ common but extraordinary people who voluntarily try to help others, do not want to be on the wrong side of the law and want to go about their work without any hassle.
Based on my interactions with various stakeholders, I tried to create as many questions as I could conceive and answers thereto in a common man’s language. I devised the Q & A in issue-based sections so that one does not need to go through the entire book in one sitting and may refer to any section depending on the query for an instant answer. I had put some of these Q & A in MHA’s website and I felt that those are not sufficient to clear all the doubts about the Act. For the first edition of the book, I could conceive 250 questions and answers and I must confess that I could not create more questions as I ran out of ideas. To my surprise I found out from the feedback from the representatives of various NGOs as also during the course of holding some seminars/workshops that still there were questions beyond what I could imagine! In the second edition, I incorporated all such new questions and some more triggered by the queries and the number increased to 300 Q & A. In the third edition the number increased to 333 Q&A because of further queries/feedback from NGO sector/consultants. However, I could reduce the number to 300 for in the fourth edition, which was published after the significant amendment to the Act in September 2020 and related procedural changes. Now, the fifth edition (online) incorporating the latest amendments is before you for free easy access anytime, anywhere on your electronic devices. I hope that this online version would be helpful to all the stakeholders.
Please note that this book is not intended to be read in one session. Those unfamiliar with the Act are requested to first understand the fundamental concepts of the Act and then go through the whole book section-wise. The practitioners who are familiar with this subject and have some doubts about certain issues may straightaway refer to those sections for clearing their doubts. But even in the latter case, it is my experience that most of the doubts arise due to the lack of clarity about the basics of the Act and referring to the sections containing the fundamental concepts would help.
I have sometimes heard views that the Act is unnecessary interference by the Government in the legitimate fundraising and social work done by various organisations. I have also faced a number of queries on imaginary situations, sometimes bordering on frivolous. To the detractors of this Act, I take this opportunity to say that the Act must be accepted the way it is because the lawmakers of the country decided to enact this legislation keeping in view national security concerns. Moreover, it should be appreciated that this Act bolsters the confidence of foreign donors, whom the organisations seek. Whether some or the other provisions of the Act are necessary or not is beyond the scope of this book. As regards imaginary & frivolous queries, I would like to request the readers to remember what has been said in Meemangsadarshan about Kakdanta Pariksha, i.e., examining and analysing whether or not a Kak or Crow has teeth. No purpose is served by such examination. When someone does so out of curiosity, his focus is towards satisfying his curiosity totally unrelated to the real issues. Therefore, my endeavour has been to focus on the practical issues so that the individuals involved in running the NGOs can manage to decipher the intricacies of FCRA on their own.
I would like to warn the readers that this book is not a substitute for the Act and the Rules thereunder. I have tried to interpret the Act and the Rules from the common sense point of view of their application in dealing with real situations. I request the readers to refer to the Act and the Rules, as amended from time to time, wherever any doubt arises or any reference to any provision of the Act or the Rule has been made because the interpretations may not necessarily be the views of MHA and certain grey areas may need to be tested in a Court of law.