Delay in filing FCRA return & consequences
Delay in Filing FC-3
FCRA is silent about consequences for delay in filing FC-3. It can be constructed that an NGO would stand the risk of losing the FCRA registration if it does not file returns properly but, whenever an NGO is not able to file FC-3 by 31st December, it should write a letter to the FCRA office explaining the circumstances causing the delay. Normally, FCRA authorities condone such delay in filing of returns.
Audit by Central Government
The Central government has a right to appoint a "Group A" gazetted officer to audit the accounts of an NGO. The relevant sections in this regard is reproduced as under —
"Section 15 – A : Audit of account: Where any NGO fails to furnish any returns under FCRA Act within the time specified therefore or the returns so furnished are not in accordance with law or if, after inspection of such returns, the Central Government has any reasonable cause to believe that any provision of this Act has been, or is being contravened, that Government may, by general or special order authorise such gazetted officer, holding a group A post, as it may think fit, to audit any books of account kept or maintained by such organisation or association, as the case may be, and thereupon every such officer shall have the right to enter in or upon any premises at any reasonable hour, before sunset and after sunrise, for the purpose of auditing the said books of account :
Provided that any information obtained from such audit shall be kept confidential and shall not be disclosed except for the purposes of this Act."
The relevant circumstances – This provision was not there in the original Act, it was inserted vide Section 8 of FCR (Amendment) Act, 1985 with effect from 20-10.1984. The Central Government has the power to initiate such audit under the following circumstances:
i) if the NGO fails to file any returns within the time limit specified.
ii) the returns submitted by the NGO are not in accordance with the law.
iii) if during the inspection/scrutiny of the returns submitted the Central Government comes across any evidence or information which provides reasonable cause to believe that any provisions of the Act has been violated.
11.6-2 Power is discretionary – The powers conferred to the Central Government under Section 15A are discretionary in nature and therefore, it is important that are exercised in a just and transparent manner. Any capricious or arbitrary order under this section without any authentic reason would defeat the purpose of the Section.
Time schedule for audit - Further under section 14 the audit of any books of account has to be carried during reasonable hours. The authorised officer shall not have authority to enter into the premises during odd hours i.e. after sunset and before sunrise. The provisions of section 14 are reproduced below:
"Section – 14 : Inspection of accounts or records: If the Central Government has, for any reason, to be recorded in writing, any ground to suspect that any provision of this Act has been, or is being, contravened by —
a) any political party, or
b) any person, or
c) any organisation, or
d) any association,
it may, by general or special order, authorise such gazetted officer, holding a (Group A post) as it may think fit (hereinafter referred to as the authorised officer), to inspect any account or record maintained by such political party, person, NGO, as the case may be, and thereupon every such authorised officer shall have the right to enter in or upon any premises at any reasonable hour, before sunset and after sunrise, for the purpose of inspecting the said account or record :
Provided that no gazetted officer shall be authorised to inspect the account or record maintained by a political party, unless he has been holding a in connection with the affairs of the Union, or a State, for not less than ten years.
Seizure of Documents - During the cause of inspection of books of accounts, if the authorised officer has reasons to believe that violation of FCRA has been done, than he has the authority to seize such accounts and records and issue a seizure memo in the presence of two independent witnesses. Whenever records and accounts are seized, they are required to be produced before the court within six months. After seizure if no proceedings are brought within six months of the seizure, then the authorised officer shall return such accounts and records to the organisation from which it was seized. It is the responsibility of the authorised officer to ensure that all the information obtained during such audit are kept secret and confidential and are not disclosed to anybody except for the purposes of this Act.
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