Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA)
The Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) licence of Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) and Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT), organisations that are associated with the Nehru-Gandhi family, for alleged violations of the provisions of the Act.
GS-II: Polity and Governance (Government Policies & Interventions, Non-Governmental Organisations -NGOs), GS-III: Indian Economy (External Sector, Mobilization of Resources)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is the FCRA?
- Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
- Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020
- Issues Related to FCRA
- Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in India
- Why have NGOs been controversial recently?
- MHA guidelines regarding FCRA and NGOs
What is the FCRA?
- The FCRA was enacted during the Emergency in 1976 amid apprehensions that foreign powers were interfering in India’s affairs by pumping money into the country through independent organisations.
- These concerns were, in fact, even older — they had been expressed in Parliament as early as in 1969.
- The law sought to regulate foreign donations to individuals and associations so that they functioned “in a manner consistent with the values of a sovereign democratic republic”.
Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010
The Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act, 2010 is a consolidating act whose scope is to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to prohibit acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activities detrimental to the national interest and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Key Points regarding FCRA
- Foreign funding of voluntary organizations in India is regulated under FCRA act and is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- The FCRA regulates the receipt of funding from sources outside of India to NGOs working in India.
- It prohibits the receipt of foreign contribution “for any activities detrimental to the national interest”.
- The Act held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state”. However, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
- The Acts ensures that the recipients of foreign contributions adhere to the stated purpose for which such contribution has been obtained.
- Under the Act, organisations require to register themselves every five years.
Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2020
- The Act bars public servants from receiving foreign contributions. Public servant includes any person who is in service or pay of the government, or remunerated by the government for the performance of any public duty.
- The Act prohibits the transfer of foreign contribution to any other person not registered to accept foreign contributions.
- The Act makes Aadhaar number mandatory for all office bearers, directors or key functionaries of a person receiving foreign contribution, as an identification document.
- The Act states that foreign contribution must be received only in an account designated by the bank as FCRA account in such branches of the State Bank of India, New Delhi.
- The Act proposes that not more than 20% of the total foreign funds received could be defrayed for administrative expenses. In FCRA 2010 the limit was 50%.
- The Act allows the central government to permit a person to surrender their registration certificate.
Issues Related to FCRA
- The Act also held that the government can refuse permission if it believes that the donation to the NGO will adversely affect “public interest” or the “economic interest of the state” – however, there is no clear guidance on what constitutes “public interest”.
- By allowing only some political groups to receive foreign donations and disallowing some others, can induce biases in favour of the government. NGOs need to tread carefully when they criticise the regime, knowing that too much criticism could cost their survival. FCRA norms can reduce critical voices by declaring them to be against the public interest – Hence, it can be said that FCRA restrictions have serious consequences on both the rights to free speech and freedom of association under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(c) of the Constitution.
- In 2016, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association undertook a legal analysis of the FCRA and stated that restrictions in the name of “public interest” and “economic interest” failed the test of “legitimate restrictions” as they were too vague and gave the state excessive discretionary powers to apply the provision in an arbitrary manner.
Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in India
- Worldwide, the term ‘NGO’ is used to describe a body that is neither part of a government nor a conventional for-profit business organisation.
- NGOs are groups of ordinary citizens that are involved in a wide range of activities that may have charitable, social, political, religious or other interests.
- In India, NGOs can be registered under a plethora of Acts such as the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860, Religious Endowments Act,1863, Indian Trusts Act, etc.
- India has possibly the largest number of active NGOs in the world.
- Ministries such as Health and Family Welfare, Human Resource Department, etc., provide funding to NGOs, but only a handful of NGOs get hefty government funds.
- NGOs also receive funds from abroad, if they are registered with the Home Ministry under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA). There are more than 22,500 FCRA-registered NGOs.
- Registered NGOs can receive foreign contribution under five purposes — social, educational, religious, economic and cultural.
Why have NGOs been controversial recently?
- An Intelligence Bureau (IB) report, submitted to the PMO and National Security Adviser in 2019, alleged that several foreign-funded NGOs were stalling India’s economic growth by their obstructionist activism.
- In 2015, the Home Ministry had cancelled the FCRA licences of 10,000 organisations.
- The annual inflow of foreign contribution has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contribution are being not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under amended provisions of the FCRA 2010.
MHA guidelines regarding FCRA and NGOs
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued new regulating guidelines to banks under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010. It states that the donations received in Indian rupees by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and associations from any foreign source (even if that source is located in India at the time of such donation) should be treated as foreign contribution.
- Under the issued regulations, donations given in Indian rupees (INR) by any foreigner/foreign source including foreigners of Indian origin like Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) or Person of India Origin (PIO) cardholders should also be treated as foreign contribution.
- The guidelines mandate that good practices should be followed by NGOs in accordance with standards of global financial watchdog- Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
- MHA asked NGOs to inform the Ministry about “suspicious activities” of any donor or recipient and “take due diligence of its employees at the time of recruitment.”
-Source: Indian Express
James Webb Space Telescope
A lush, highly detailed landscape- the iconic “Pillars of Creation” has been caught by NASA’s powerful James Webb Telescope.
GS III- Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?
- What is the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope?
- How is the James Webb better than the Hubble?
About Pillars of Creation
- It is a vista of three looming towers made of interstellar dust and gas.
- These iconic Pillars of Creation is located in the centre of the Eagle Nebula (it is a constellation of stars), which is also known as Messier 16.
- The images show vast, towering columns of dense clouds of gas and dust where young stars are forming in a region some 6,500 light-years from Earth.
- At the ends of several pillars are bright red, lava-like spots. These are ejections from stars that are still forming, only a few hundred thousand years old.
- The pillars were made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope, which first captured them in 1995 and then again in 2014.
What is NASA’s James Webb Telescope?
- The telescope has been in the works for years. NASA led its development with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
- It was launched aboard a rocket on December 25, 2021, and is currently at a point in space known as the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, approximately 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit around the Sun.
- Lagrange Point 2 is one of the five points in the orbital plane of the Earth-Sun system.
- Named after Italian-French mathematician Josephy-Louis Lagrange, the points are in any revolving two-body system like Earth and Sun, marking where the gravitational forces of the two large bodies cancel each other out.
- Objects placed at these positions are relatively stable and require minimal external energy or fuel to keep themselves there, and so many instruments are positioned here.
- L2 is a position directly behind Earth in the line joining the Sun and the Earth. It would be shielded from the Sun by the Earth as it goes around the Sun, in sync with the Earth.
What is the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope?
NASA says the James Webb Space Telescope will be “a giant leap forward in our quest to understand the Universe and our origins”, as it will examine every phase of cosmic history: from the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets to the evolution of our own Solar System.
The science goals for the Webb can be grouped into four themes.
- To look back around 13.5 billion years to see the first stars and galaxies forming out of the darkness of the early universe.
- To compare the faintest, earliest galaxies to today’s grand spirals and understand how galaxies assemble over billions of years.
- To see where stars and planetary systems are being born.
- To observe the atmospheres of extrasolar planets (beyond our solar system), and perhaps find the building blocks of life elsewhere in the universe. The telescope will also study objects within our own Solar System.
How is the James Webb better than the Hubble?
- JWST is much more powerful and has the ability to look in the infrared spectrum, which will allow it to peer through much deeper into the universe, and see-through obstructions such as gas clouds.
- As electromagnetic waves travel for long distances, they lose energy, resulting in an increase in their wavelength. An ultraviolet wave, for example, can slowly move into the visible light spectrum and the infrared spectrum, and further weaken to microwaves or radio waves, as it loses energy.
- Hubble was designed to look mainly into the ultraviolet and visible regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. JWST is primarily an infrared telescope, the first of its kind.
-Source: Indian Express
Draft National Credit Framework
School students in India can soon earn ‘credits’ from classroom learning as well as extracurricular activities and deposit them in a ‘bank’ — much like the system already being followed in some colleges and universities.
- The policy to integrate this credit system, the draft National Credit Framework (NCrF), was put in public domain by Education Minister.
GS II: Education
Dimensions of the Article:
- What are ‘credits’ in the education system?
- What are credit frameworks?
- What are the highlights of the NCrF?
What are ‘credits’ in the education system?
- Credits are essentially a “recognition that a learner has completed a prior course of learning, corresponding to a qualification at a given level”, according to the draft document.
- In other words, it is a way of quantifying learning outcomes.
How does the credit system work?
- Take for example the Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS) followed by many universities in India.
- Under the CBCS, students need to earn a certain number of credits for completing a degree.
- While doing so, it offers them the opportunity to mix and match a wide variety of courses, enabling interdisciplinary and intradisciplinary education.
- This is not possible under the conventional marks or percentage-based evaluation system.
- At a time the University Grants Commission (UGC) is encouraging provisions such as the four-year undergraduate programme with multiple entry and exit options, a credit-based approach has become imperative.
- Simply put, it offers flexibility in choosing courses, the option to change courses or institutions midway, or to reenter the education system after dropping out without losing years.
- The students can digitally deposit their credits in the Academic Bank of Credits or ABC, which in many ways works like a commercial bank, and redeem them whenever required.
- According to the University Grants Commission (Establishment and Operation of Academic Bank Of Credits in Higher Education) Regulations notified in July, 2021, the credits shall remain valid for a maximum duration of seven years.
What are credit frameworks?
- Credit frameworks are guidelines to be followed by schools, colleges and universities in adopting the credit system.
- For example, the National Higher Education Qualification Framework (NHEQF) lays out the guidelines for higher educational institutions that want to implement the credit system.
How is the NCrF different from the existing frameworks?
- The proposed NCrF seeks to integrate all the frameworks under one umbrella.
- Moreover, it also brings the entire school education system under the ambit of credits for the first time. So far, only the National Institute of Open Schooling followed a credit system. The NCrF also covers skill and vocational education.
What are the highlights of the NCrF?
- The biggest change that the NCrF, once implemented, will usher in is in the school education sector.
- All the provisions of the credit system will also be available to school students.
- It will remove the need for equivalence certification for academic programmes that meet the NCrF requirements and facilitate transfer of students between schools and boards.
- NCrF addresses the difficulties students are facing in respect of equivalence of certificates issued by various school education boards in India for the purpose of admissions in higher education institutions and employment in Central/State Government.
- A student shall have to earn at least 40 credits for completing a year of school education after putting in 1200 hours of “notional learning hours”.
Notional learning hours:
- Notion learning hours in the context of NCRF means time spent not just in classroom teaching, but also in a range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities.
- The list of such activities include sports, yoga, performing arts, music, social work, NCC, vocational education, as well as on the job training, internships or apprenticeships.
How will the credit points be obtained?
- For the purpose of calculation, the NCrF has divided the education system into multiple levels.
- For school education, there are four levels.
- Students clearing class XII will be at credit level 4.
- For higher education, the levels are from 4.5 to 8 — which is basically from first year UG to PhD.
- The total credit points earned by the student will be obtained by multiplying the credits earned by them with the NCrF level at which the credits have been earned.
-Source: Indian Express
Chhattisgarh government had launched Lok Adalat in jails for the speedy disposal of cases for the prisoners of the state. These courts will be held every working Saturday and provide relief to undertrials, and in some cases convicted prisoners, by explaining their rights and legal options such as plea bargaining and settlement.
GS II- Polity
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Lok Adalats
- Significance of Lok Adalats
About Lok Adalats:
- A Lok Adalat is one of the substitute dispute redressal mechanisms.
- National Legal Services Authority alongside other Legal Services Institutions conducts Lok Adalats.
- It is a forum where cases or disputes incomplete in the court of law are compromised cordially.
- Under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 Lok Adalats have been given statutory status.
- Under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 the decision made by the Lok Adalats is considered to be a verdict of a civil court and is ultimate and binding on all parties.
- There is no provision for an appeal against the verdict made by Lok Adalat
- If the parties are not satisfied with the award of the Lok Adalat though there is no provision for an appeal, they are free to initiate litigation.
- There is no court fee payable when a dispute is filed in a Lok Adalat.
- If a dispute pending in the court of law is referred to the Lok Adalat and is settled later, the court fee originally paid in the court on the petition is also reimbursed back to the parties.
- The individuals determining the cases in the Lok Adalats are called the Members of the Lok Adalats
- They have the role of statutory intermediaries only
- They do not have any judicial role
- The chairman, two members, and one social worker.
- The chairman must be a sitting or retired judicial officer.
- The other two members should be a lawyer
Significance of Lok Adalats
- As per the National Judicial Data Grid, 16.9% of all cases in district and taluka courts are three to five years old.
- For High Courts, 20.4% of all cases are five to 10 years old, and over 17% are 10-20 years old.
- Furthermore, over 66,000 cases are pending before the Supreme Court, over 57 lakh cases before various HCs, and over 3 crore cases are pending before various district and subordinate courts.
- Moreover, Lok Adalats are economically affordable, as there are no court fees for placing matters before the Lok Adalat; finality of awards, as no further appeal is allowed.
- As a result, litigants are forced to approach Lok Adalats mainly because it is a party-driven process, allowing them to reach an amicable settlement.