The Supreme Court on Wednesday said a stronger regulatory regime was needed for non-governmental organisations in India. A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said it would consider referring the matter to the Law Commission of India to bring in an appropriate law that will regulate the flow of money to the nearly 31 lakh NGOs in the country.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur appointed senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi as amicus curiae and sought his views on how to fasten accountability on the NGOs when they are funded from the public exchequer. “They are getting money from all over the world… what is an NGO? Anyone can register a society and it becomes an NGO.
There is no central legislation to ensure accountability… no legal brainwork done at the central level to control them. Unless some mechanism is put in place centrally, nothing can be done,” observed the bench. It regretted that out of around 31 lakh NGOs, less than 10 per cent submitted details of their accounts with the registrar of societies and said that absence of a central law could be the reason for lack of regulatory regime.
It asked PIL petitioner-advocate M L Sharma to hand over a copy of the petition and other relevant documents to Dwivedi, and added that if necessary, the court might refer the matter to the Law Commission for an in-depth study. The first-ever exercise by the CBI to map registered NGOs had disclosed that India has at least 31 lakh NGOs — more than double the number of schools in the country, 250 times the number of government hospitals, one NGO for 400 people as against one policeman for 709 people.
These statistics, indicating the relative status of education and healthcare infrastructure apart from policing, have come to light after the CBI collated information from all states and Union Territories to list NGOs registered under the Societies Registration Act. The CBI was directed by the court to collect information about NGOs and inform whether these NGOs have filed balance sheets, including income-expenditure statements, to ascertain compliance with accountability norms.