'Human Rights cannot be an excuse for defying law of land': MHA says Amnesty India statement 'unfortunate, exaggerated'

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday said the Human Rights cannot be an excuse for defying law of the land, claiming that Amnesty International India violated provisions of FCRA.

Earlier, Amnesty International India said it has been compelled to let go of staff in India and pause all its ongoing campaign and research work after the complete freezing of its bank accounts by the Government of India.

Responding to the the Human Rights group's claim, the Uniin Home Ministry said "all the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of laid down Indian laws."

"Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organizations. However, India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations. This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well," it said.

"India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary and tradition of vibrant domestic debate. The people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government. Amnesty’s failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India," it added.

The ministry said that Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too twenty years ago (19.12.2000).

Since then Amnesty International, despite its repeated applications, has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per law it is not eligible to get such an approval, it said.

"However, in order to circumvent the FCRA regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amounts of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without MHA’s approval under FCRA. This mala fide rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions," the Home Ministry said.

"Owing to these illegal practices of Amnesty, the previous government had also rejected the repeated applications of Amnesty to receive funds from overseas. This had led Amnesty to suspend its India operations once during that period as well. This bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty, under different governments, makes it clear that the entire fault lies in the dubious processes adopted by Amnesty to secure funds for its operations," it added.

Earlier, Amnesty International India had termed the freezing of its bank accounts the latest in the incessant witch-hunt of human rights organisations by the Government of India over unfounded and motivated allegations.

“The continuing crackdown on Amnesty International India over the last two years and the complete freezing of bank accounts is not accidental. The constant harassment by government agencies including the Enforcement Directorate is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the Government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu & Kashmir,"said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director of Amnesty International India.

For a movement that has done nothing but raise its voices against injustice, this latest attack is akin to freezing dissent, he added.

It also said that it stands in full compliance with all applicable Indian and international laws.

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