Freedom of Association and India’s FCRA

A Summary Analysis of India’s FCRA Supreme Court Judgment


On April 8, 2022, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India issued its judgment in Noel Harper v. Union of India, addressing the constitutionality of the 2020 amendments to Sections 7, 12A, 12(1A), and 17(1) of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). In upholding the constitutionality of the challenged amendments, the Court found that no one can “claim a vested right to accept foreign donation, much less an absolute right.” However, in reaching this finding, the Court neglected to undertake an interpretation of the right to form associations as embraced by the Indian Constitution, or of the freedom of association under international law, which encompasses the ability to access resources. In seemingly dismissing a right to foreign funding and not thoroughly examining how the 2020 Amendments undermine Indians’ freedom of association by creating significant barriers to accessing foreign contributions, the Supreme Court’s decision runs counter to international law.