New Delhi, May 19 (Agency) The Centre on Monday extended the deadline till June 30 for Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to open its bank account in State Bank of India to receive foreign funding. In a order issued by the FCRA wing in Foreigners Division, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) decided to extend the deadline for NGOs to open their accounts with the State Bank of India’s (SBI) main branch here from March 31, 2021 to June 30, 2021 for receiving foreign donations for their activities.
Opening of an account in the SBI’s branch is a mandatory requirement for the NGOs under the amended provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) enacted in September 2020 to receive foreign donations. In the meanwhile, the MHA has also given relief to NGOs having certificates under the FCRA by extending their expiry date till September 30, 2021. This extension relief has been given to those NGOs, whose certificates were to expire between September 29, 2020 and September 30, 2021. It is to be noted here that at least five NGOs moved the Delhi and Guwahati High Courts, arguing that even though they had applied to open FCRA accounts at the bank before March 31, administrative delays on the part of the SBI and the MHA severely restricted their activities, including providing COVID-19 related relief and paying urgent salaries to their staff.
Last week, the Delhi High Court asked the MHA to consider if the deadline can be extended in view of the pandemic. The MHA issued an order dated May 18, 2021, where it said: “Keeping in view the exigencies arising out of the COVID-19 situation and to ensure smooth transition to the amended FCRA regime the Central government, under section 50 of the FCRA, 2010 was making an amendment to allow NGOs to open an account with the SBI up to June 30 or earlier”.
It further said, “After that date, they shall not be eligible to receive foreign contribution in any other account other than the FCRA account opened in the NDMB of the SBI.” The MHA has also given a relief up to September 30 to the NGOs whose registration was expiring between September 29, 2020-September 30, 2021. In a separate order the MHA said, “Keeping in view the exigencies arising out of COVID-19situation and to ensure smooth transition to the amended FCRA regime, the central government in exercise of the powers conferred by section 50 of the FCRA, 2010 has further decided that the registration certificate expiring/expired during the period between 29th September, 2020 and up to 30th September 2021 shall remain valid up to 30th September, 2021.” The NGOs had to apply for renewal of certificates or registration by May 31, which has now been extended to September 30, 2021, the MHA order noted.