No coercive action against NGOs that fail to meet annual returns deadline, Delhi HC tells MHA

No coercive action against NGOs that fail to meet annual returns deadline, Delhi HC tells MHA

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The Delhi High Court has “restrained” the government from taking any “coercive” action against Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) if they fail to file their annual returns before June 30.

The order was passed on petitions from NGOs which had expressed inability to submit the return under FC-4 Form for the year 2019-2020, as the online system, introduced under the amended Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2020, accepts the entry only if the account is in

‘s New Delhi Main Branch. They sought the court’s direction to the Union home ministry to amend the FC-4 Form and grant an extension for filing their annual returns.

Passing the order, the court further observed that “a citizen cannot be penalised for a discrepancy in the form prescribed by the union government, resulting in the form being unable to be submitted even in the case of a law-abiding citizen.”

As per the rules, the government may cancel FCRA licenses of NGOs for such violations.

The home ministry, however, told the court that it cannot extend the deadline, but organisations could submit their returns later with the appropriate penalty.

On this, the court noted, “The submission does not comment itself to acceptance at all. In view thereof, till the next date of hearing, the respondent is restrained from taking any coercive action for failure to file the return before June 30, 2021.” NGOs said they had been contributing enormously to India‘s GDP and providing livelihood to millions both through direct employment and social giving. Their role, which can range from service delivery and welfare, is particularly significant in view of low social sector spending in India. Non-profits have played a crucial role in serving the needs of the community during the Covid-19 pandemic, they said.

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