The stand taken and the statements made by Amnesty International are unfortunate, exaggerated and far from the truth, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Tuesday.
The MHA issued a statement after Amnesty International through a statement earlier in the day announced that it has halted its operations in India, saying it had to let go of its staff after its accounts were frozen earlier this month as part of what it called a "witch-hunt" by the government over its adverse reports.
The MHA said that Amnesty International had received permission under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) only once and that too 20 years ago on December 19, 2000.
Since then, the ministry said, the global human rights watchdog, despite its repeated applications, has been denied FCRA approval by successive governments since as per the law it is not eligible to get such an approval.
However, in order to circumvent the FCRA regulations, Amnesty UK remitted large amount of money to four entities registered in India, by classifying it as foreign direct investment (FDI), it said.
"A significant amount of foreign money was also remitted to Amnesty (India) without the MHA's approval under FCRA. This mala fide rerouting of money was in contravention of extant legal provisions," the MHA said.
Owing to these illegal practices of Amnesty, the MHA said the previous government had also rejected its repeated applications to receive funds from overseas.
"This had led Amnesty to suspend its India operations once during that period as well. This bipartisan and purely legal approach towards Amnesty, under different governments, makes it clear that the entire fault lies in the dubious processes adopted by Amnesty to secure funds for its operations," the MHA statement said.
It added that all the glossy statements about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power are nothing but a ploy to divert attention from their activities which were in clear contravention of the laid down Indian laws.
"Such statements are also an attempt to extraneously influence the course of investigations by multiple agencies into the irregularities and illegalities carried out over the last few years," the ministry said.
The MHA also said that Amnesty is free to continue humanitarian work in India, as is being done by many other organisations. However, it also clarified that India, by settled law, does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations.
"This law applies equally to all and it shall apply to Amnesty International as well," the MHA said.
The ministry further said that India has a rich and pluralistic democratic culture with a free press, independent judiciary and tradition of vibrant domestic debate.
Claiming that the people of India have placed unprecedented trust in the current government, the ministry said, "Amnesty's failure to comply with local regulations does not entitle them to make comments on the democratic and plural character of India."
According to officials in the Home Ministry, the organisation "got money into India through the FDI route", which is not allowed in the case of non-profit bodies.
Amnesty India did get the government's permission to receive around Rs 1.69 crore from Amnesty UK in 2011-12. But since 2013, that permission has been denied, said sources.
In 2018, the Enforcement Directorate froze its accounts, after which Amnesty approached the court and won a reprieve. But their accounts were sealed.
Last year, the CBI also registered a case based on a complaint that Amnesty International UK allegedly transferred Rs 10 crore to Amnesty India entities as FDI without the ministry's approval.