The Hon'ble Supreme Court in its recent judgement dated April 8, 2022 passed in Noel Harper v. Union of India (Writ Petition (Civil) No. 566 of 2021) has upheld the 2020 amendments made to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
The writ petitioners contended that the amendment would cause gross inconvenience to them. They contended that they will be forced to visit Delhi to open account in the designated branch. They contended that the impact of amended provisions is to denude the registered associations to have physical access to their primary account at Delhi along with a host of other restrictions.
The bench held that even assuming that some inconvenience is likely to be caused to few applicants, but the constitutionality of a statute cannot be assailed on the basis of fortuitous circumstances and more so when it being only a one-time exercise to ensure inflow of foreign contribution through one channel only, being a precondition for grant of permission. There is no restriction regarding utilisation of the funds only through that (primary) FCRA account. For, it is open to the recipient to operate multiple accounts in other scheduled banks for its utilisationThe Hon'ble Court observed that a mere plea of inconvenience is not enough to attract the constitutional inhibition.
The Court thought it fit, to not adopt a doctrinaire approach in construing the amended provisions and undermine the legislative intent of strengthening the regulatory mechanism concerning foreign contribution. The legislature enjoys considerable latitude while exercising its wisdom on the basis of inputs collated from different quarters..
The Court held that there is intrinsic evidence to indicate that the change effected by the amendments is to serve the legitimate Government purpose and has a rational nexus to the object of the Principal Act and the amendments, and that the preamendment dispensation (unamended Section 7) was not sufficient to effectively regulate the acceptance and utilisation of foreign contribution as predicated by the Principal Act.
By - C. George Thomas