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Posted at: Nov 15, 2019, 5:35 PM; last updated: Nov 15, 2019, 9:31 PM (IST)

CBI books Amnesty India for FCRA violations; rights watchdog says harassment

CBI books Amnesty India for FCRA violations; rights watchdog says harassment
Photo source: www.amnesty.org/en

New Delhi, November 15
 
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked Amnesty International India for violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act after it conducted raids at at the organisation's Bengaluru and Delhi offices on Friday, officials said—a development that the rights watchdog has condemned as "harassment". 
 
The agency’s accusations primarily concern foreign funding to the tune of Rs 36 crore. The agency conducted raids at four places in both cities. 
 
Officials said CBI registered the case on November 5 after the Home Ministry filed a complaint against the organisation for violation of both Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, and Indian Penal Code. Several arms of the organisation have been booked—Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd (AIIPL), Indians For Amnesty International Trust (IAIT), Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT), and Amnesty International South Asia Foundation (AISAF), among others. 
 
The complaint 
 
The organisation faces allegations of having violated both FCRA and the Indian Penal Code while receiving foreign contributions from Amnesty International UK through AIIPL even though “prior registration or permissions were denied to AIIFT and other trusts under FCRA”, the officials said.
 
The Home Ministry claims that AIIPL is a 'for-profit' company, and that London-based Amnesty International worked through four companies—all of which have been named in the case.
 
The ministry claims Rs 10 crore was sent to Amnesty India by its London office as Foreign Direct Investment without permission, and another Rs 26 crore was remitted to Amnesty India "primarily from the UK based entities".
 
"All such receipts have subsequently been expended on Amnesty's NGO activities in India, in violation of FCRA". The ministry, which Home Minister Amit Shah currently heads, has claimed that Amnesty made several attempts to obtain prior permission or registration under FCRA, but it used "commercial methods to evade FCRA" when it could not get it.
 
It further alleged that Amnesty India received funds for purposes like “service contract”, “advance income” and FDI through automatic route.
 
The ministry claims that out of the Rs 36 crore received, Rs 10 crore were remitted as FDI, Rs 26 crore as payment for consultancy services.
 
The UK-based Amnesty International invested Rs 10 crore to AIIPL on September 24, 2015.
 
The complaint claims that the amount was classified as “compulsory convertible debenture” but was shown in Income Tax returns as "long term borrowing".
 
While forwarding the complaint, the home ministry directed the CBI to rope in Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate “in case violations of relevant acts” were found during investigations, officials said. 
 
'Harassment'
 
An Amnesty International India executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about half-a-dozen CBI sleuths arrived at about 8.30 am at the Bengaluru office and carried out searches till 5 pm."

In a statement, the human rights watchdog said "Over the past year, a pattern of harassment has emerged every time Amnesty India stands up and speaks out against human rights violations in India”. 

It said that it stands in full compliance with Indian and international law. “Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold and fight for universal human rights.  These are the same values that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance, and dissent,” it added.

The Enforcement Directorate had raided the Amnesty International India office about a year ago in connection with a foreign exchange contravention case.

The searches were in connection with alleged violation of foreign direct investment norms linked to a previous case of revocation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence of the NGO by the Home Ministry in 2010.

Here’s Amnesty India's complete statement  in response to the raid 

“The Central Bureau of Investigation today conducted searches at the offices of Amnesty International India Private Limited and Indians for Amnesty International Trust in Bengaluru.

Over the past year, a pattern of harassment has emerged every time Amnesty International India stands up and speaks out against human rights violations in India.

Amnesty International India stands in full compliance with Indian and international law.

Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold and fight for universal human rights. These are the same values that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance, and dissent.” — Agencies 

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