Two NGOs run by social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband have been served notices by the Union Home Ministry for alleged violations of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and asked to reply within 15 days.
Sabarang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), run by Ms. Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand, were served the notice two days ago following an on-site inspection of records and books of accounts carried out by the Ministry officials in April 2015.
During the probe, sources said, it was found that they were running a magazine Communalism Combat as co-editors as well as printer and publisher of their company Sabrang Communication and Publishing (SCPPL) and allegedly received foreign contribution.
Under the FCRA, no foreign contribution shall be accepted by any correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner, printer or publisher of a registered newspaper.
The CJP, which has been fighting cases for victims of 2002 Gujarat riots, had received a total foreign contribution of around Rs. 1.18 crore from 2008-09 to 2013-14.
According to the notice, more than 80 per cent or nearly Rs. 95 lakh was spent for legal aid. While the entity was registered for “educational and economic” purposes, it received foreign contribution for activities such as “legal aid”, which is covered under purpose “social”. Hence, it violated the provisions of the FCRA rules, the sources contended.
“On review of vouchers of the association it was found that Sabrang Trust have made payment of Rs. 12 lakh from FCRA designated account to Citi Bank and Union Bank of India on account of credit facilities taken through credit cards belonging to Ms. Setalvad and Mr. Anand.
“This amounts to use of foreign contribution for the purposes not authorised as per the provisions of FCRA 2010. Thus association has violated Section 8(1) (a) of FCRA 2010,” the Home Ministry notice said.
The Home Ministry investigation also found that Mr. Anand has taken international medical policy for visiting Lahore and debited the amount in the account of Sabrang Trust.
Further, even book purchases and travel expenses incurred by him to attend meetings with the People’s Union For Civil Liberties were debited in Sabrang Trust allegedly in violation of Section 8(1)(a) of FCRA.
The Home Ministry’s inspection has also found that an amount of Rs. 50 lakh was allegedly transferred by Sabrang Trust to SCPPL which is not registered under FCRA. FCRA rules prohibit transfer of foreign contribution to any non-FCRA account unless such entity is also registered and had been granted the certificate or obtained prior permission under this Act.
The investigation also found various alleged irregularities like administrative expenditure exceeding more than 50 per cent.
Besides, different figures towards expenses incurred on legal aid in the books of accounts and in the receipts of payment accounts, closing balance of the proceeding year was allegedly not reported as opening balance and even the funds received from United Nations not found in the bank statement, the sources claimed.