New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the right to receive foreign contributions is not a fundamental right and if it is unregulated, it may result in "devastating consequences".
Defending the amendments carried out in the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, the government told a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar that the object of the changes is to streamline the compliance mechanism and enhance transparency and accountability.
"There cannot be any doubt that right to receive foreign contribution is not a fundamental right and it has to be regulated," Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench, which also comprised justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar.
Mehta told the bench, which reserved its judgement on a batch of pleas including those which have raised issues concerning the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2020, that there have been instances of inputs from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) that some foreign contributions received are being misused to fund training of Naxals.
"Foreign contributions, if unregulated, may result in devastating consequences to the sovereignty of the nation. We need to regulate foreign contributions," the law officer said.
He said India as a nation has always been very conscious about foreign contributions and the consistent policy is to guard against any misuse of such funding.
Mehta said every foreign contribution will be received only in an account designated as FCRA account which shall be opened in State Bank of India (SBI) main branch at New Delhi.
He said the bank is under an obligation to inform the government that a particular NGO, having its FCRA account, have received so much contribution from foreign country.
He also referred to the affidavit, filed in the top court by the Centre in the matter, which said that based on the procedure over 19,000 accounts have already been opened at SBI, New Delhi's main branch.
During the hearing, the bench asked Mehta about the issues pertaining to foreign contributions being dealt with by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
He said from the inception of this legislation, the MHA is dealing with these issues as there may be possibility of contributions coming from foreign countries or offshore organisations being misused with an aim to destabilise the internal security of the nation.
The bench observed that the government has to consider all possibilities while dealing with regulatory measures on the issue.
While reserving the judgement, the apex court said that written submissions by the Centre as well as the petitioners be filed within a week.
In its affidavit filed in the court earlier, the Centre had said there exists no fundamental right to receive "unbridled foreign contributions" without any regulation.
The government had said that the Act is a "sovereignty and integrity legislation" where the overriding purpose is to ensure that foreign money does not dominate public life as well as the political and social discourse in India.
"This becomes even more imperative in view of the fact that some foreign powers and foreign state and non-state actors continue to take up activities that amount to interference in the internal polity of the country with ulterior designs. The restrictions on transfer aim to prevent and counter such acts of ulterior motives," it had said.
The affidavit had also said that object of the Act is to regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and also to prohibit acceptance of such contribution for any activities which are "detrimental to the national interest".
The apex court is hearing three separate petitions which have raised issues concerning the Foreign Contribution Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2020.
While two of these petitions have challenged certain amendments carried out in the Act, another plea has sought a direction to the government not to grant any further extension to the NGOs to comply with specific provisions of the law.