The Union home ministry is scrapping the renewed foreign funding licence given to the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) until an investigation into it ends, sources said on Friday.
“The ministry will rescind its order of renewal of foreign funding licence of the IRF,” said a ministry source.
The IRF and its founder, controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, have been under the scanner after it was alleged that some of the gunmen who attacked a Dhaka bakery in Bangladesh this July were influenced by Naik’s sermons.
The home ministry has also been working to declare IRF unlawful under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. However, in the third week of August, the foundation’s application to renew its foreign funding license was processed quietly.
The matter came to light after an IRF spokesperson announced the renewal in an interview on Thursday.
A formal inquiry has been initiated to look into circumstance of the renewal and strict action will be taken against those responsible. Sources said the decision was made by home minister Rajnath Singh in consultation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Three officials have already been suspended from the foreigners division that deals with matters under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the law that governs foreign funding. They included two under-secretaries and one section officer. A data entry operator was also removed from his post.
All NGOs are required to register with the foreigners division to receive donations from abroad.
The IRF intends to take the home ministry to court over the scrapping of the license.
“We will challenge it in court. We assume that the renewal was done following all norms,” Aarif Malik, IRF spokesperson said. Stating that if anything was wrong, the ministry should have not renewed the licence, Malik said, “What logic will they give now to revoke it?”
The ministry had started a probe into the affairs of the IRF by sending it a questionnaire, a step followed by an inspection of the NGO’s books.
“We replied to the questionnaire after receiving intimation about renewal. The probe against us is politically motivated. Our books were inspected by the ministry in 2014-15 as well but nothing adverse came out it,” Malik added.
GK Dwivedi, joint secretary of the foreigners division, is also facing heat for the embarrassing slip-up. Dwivedi is credited for making all FCRA services online and thus bringing transparency.
“The formal process of Dwivedi’s suspension was initiated on Thursday only after the home minister cleared it in consultation with the PM ,” a ministry official said on the condition of anonymity. An overhaul of the foreigners division is also on cards.
The slip-up comes at a rather inconvenient time for the government -- the Centre had sought the solicitor general of India’s opinion about blacklisting the IRF, a move that would block foreign funding to the organisation. Cable and mutli-system operators were also directed not to broadcast Naik’s Peace TV which does not have a license in India.