Time limit for Application of FCRA Registration

No specific time limit has been provided under FCRA for making an application, unlike Income Tax Act, which requires an organisation to apply within one year from its creation or registration under section 12A. Normally FCRA is granted after 3 years of active existence, therefore, the application should be made after three years though nothing in the Act prevents from making such application earlier.

Relevance of three years’ audited statement : In the absence of any time limit provided in FCRA, reliance is normally made on clause 7 of Form FC-8, which provides for submission of past three years audited statement. On the basis of the requirement of form FC-8, it is normally understood that application for registration under FCRA can only be after 3 years of the creation of the organisation. But, in our opinion, under FCRA laws, there is no such restriction, which prohibits application before completion of three years.

The requirement of submission of 3 years audited statements under Form FC-8, is only directory in nature and there is no reason to make an implicit presumption of a 3years waiting period before applying for registration. Incidentally, Form FC- ‘1A’, which is the application form for seeking, prior permission also requires submission of last 3 years audited statements. Therefore, if this submission of 3 years statements is assumed to be a mandatory pre-condition, then an organisation cannot even apply for prior permission before completion of three years.

Rule does not specify any time limit - Rule 3A of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) 1976, provides that an application for registration of an association under section 6, shall be made in Form FC-8. Rule 3A, does not provides for any period of restriction only after which the application can be made. It is only the Form FC- ‘1A’ and Form FC-8, which require as a part of enclosures, 3years audited statements and detail of activities. As far as Form FC- ‘1A’ is concerned it is a foregone conclusion that if 3 years audited statements are not available, lesser number of years audited statements could be enclosed. But, somehow a confusion in practice as well as understanding seemed to have crept in that application for registration can only be made after the completion of 3 years.

Supreme court’s view - In this regard, it is pertinent to refer the Supreme Court decision in STO vs. K.I. Abraham [1967] 20 STC 367, where is was held that the rule making authority had no power to prescribe any time restriction. Infact, the FCRA rules also do not provide any restrictive time limit. It is only the requirement of Form FC- ‘1A’ as well as Form FC-8, which requires 3 years audited statements and activity reports. Such requirements are directory and general in nature and therefore, should not be construed as a mandatory requirement of the FCRA.

Application can be filed at any time - Consequently, in our opinion, application for registration under FCRA can be filed any time after the registration of the organisation. But, the organisation with a considerable past history of activities have a greater chance of convincing the FCRA authorities with regard to the genuiness and the relevance of their purpose.

Field Enquiry
The FCRA department may ask the intelligence bureau for a report. Some authorities from the intelligence bureau may visit the office and the project area of the organisation and inspect the books of account and other records available. On the basis of the reports submitted by the intelligence bureau the FCRA department decides whether to accept or reject the application.

The FCRA department issues a registration certificate and provides a permanent registration number. This registration number is required to be quoted in all future correspondences and filling of returns and forms.

Time limit for granting registration
There is no time limit mentioned under the FCRA either for granting or rejecting the application. Normally, the application is expected to be processed within a period of six months but it is found that applications for registration are delayed for even two to three years. The FCRA guidelines available on the website of the Ministry of Home Affairs, provide that the certificates from recommending activities (District Collector, etc.) are very important and help in expending the process of registration. In the absence of a prescribed time limit, it is expected that the authority should dispose of the application within a reasonable time. The duration of such reasonable time will depend upon the prevailing facts and circumstances.

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