Here's how Aakar Patel and Amnesty landed in trouble

Rajesh Ahuja
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Aakar Patel (File photo)

New Delhli (India): Though many in the country argue that non-government organisations (NGOs) started facing heat after the Narendra Modi-led BJP government came to power but the tightening of screws on foreign funding of NGOs had started when Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister. 


In February 2012, PM Singh openly accused NGOs which had received funds from the US were trying to stall India's atomic energy programme. 

The Manmohan government had faced stiff resistance from protestors over Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tamil Nadu. 

Suddenly NGOs found that the Union Home Ministry was seeking more clarity and transparency in their funding. Started by Manmohan government, the process continued at a faster pace when the Modi-led NDA government came into power in 2014. 


All NGOs that receive foreign funding need to be registered with the Union Home Ministry under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

In the NDA era, thousands of NGOs have lost their clearance to get foreign funding. 

In this context, Amnesty India adopted a novel strategy to deal with funding issues. Amnesty started taking consultancy work for foreign entities and got paid for the work. Amnesty also put emphasis on domestic funding in order to keep away from foreign funds. 


The current legal problems of Amnesty and its former head Aakar Patel have roots in that strategy. 

The government has accused Amnesty of receiving Rs 26 crore as the fee for consultancy services. It has also been accused of receiving Rs 10 crore as foreign direct investment. Now courts will see whether the money received by Amnesty was legally in order or not. 

Both Amnesty and Patel have been formally charged by CBI of violating FCRA though both of them have denied the charges. The court could not take cognisance of the charges against Patel as prior government sanction to prosecute him was pending. But on Monday CBI submitted the sanction to the court and thus paving way for the trial of Patel and Amnesty. 

Patel has been barred from leaving the country. He is likely to mount a legal challenge in this regard. 

But it is very clear from the hawkeye that the government has maintained over NGOs that they will have to be very transparent in dealing with foreign funding.