India on October 20 reacted to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet's concerns over restrictions on NGOs and arrest of activists, claiming that "violations of the law cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights and a more informed view of the matter was expected of the UN body".
"We have seen some comments by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on an issue relating to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). India is a democratic polity based on the rule of law and an independent judiciary. The framing of laws is obviously a sovereign prerogative. Violations of law, however, cannot be condoned under the pretext of human rights. A more informed view of the matter was expected of a UN body," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.
Earlier, Bachelet raised concerns over the restrictions on foreign funding for the NGOs and the arrest of activists in the country.
She appealed to the Indian Government to "safeguard the rights of human rights defenders and NGOs, and their ability to carry out their crucial work" on behalf of the various groups they represent.
"India has long had a strong civil society, which has been at the forefront of groundbreaking human rights advocacy within the country and globally," she said in a statement. "But I am concerned that vaguely defined laws are increasingly being used to stifle these voices," she added.
She also emphasised on the use of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), which prohibits the receipt of foreign funds "for any activities prejudicial to the public interest."
As per the revised FCRA law, providing Aadhaar numbers by office-bearers of NGOs has become compulsory for registration. The Act also provides for a reduction in administrative expenses of any NGO receiving foreign funding, from 50 per cent to 20 per cent of annual funds to ensure spending on their main purposes.
The government has maintained that the legislation was an effort to maintain transparency and is not against any NGO.