National

Teesta’s NGO on watch list as HC grants her interim relief from arrest

In this July 21, 2015 photo, activist Teesta Setalvad is seen talking to media outside the CBI office in Mumbai.

In this July 21, 2015 photo, activist Teesta Setalvad is seen talking to media outside the CBI office in Mumbai.   | Photo Credit: VIVEK BENDRE

On a day when the Bombay High Court granted interim protection from arrest to social activists Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand in a case related to violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), the Home Ministry put one of her other NGOs — the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) under the ‘prior approval category.’

Friday’s order essentially means that the CJP would not be able to receive foreign funds without the Ministry’s approval. Officials said they were in the process of sending a show-cause notice to CJP and Sabrang Trust, another NGO run by Ms. Setalvad.

Earlier in April this year, on a complaint by the Gujarat government that the U.S.-based Ford Foundation was funding the “anti-India” activities of Ms. Setalvad’s NGOs, the Home Ministry inspected their accounts. The State government had requested that registration of both the NGOs be cancelled.

Ms. Setalvad’s relentless legal battle to seek justice for the victims of the 2002 communal riots has been a source of annoyance, her friends allege, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was Gujarat Chief Minister then.

Ms. Setalvad was assisting Zakia Jafri, widow of former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri who was killed in the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre, to file a petition against Mr. Modi and 59 others on their alleged complicity in the riots, which was later rejected by the court.

The Communist Party of India (CPI-M) had earlier condemned the “blatantly vindictive” actions against Ms Setalvad by the Modi government.

Earlier in the day, a CBI court in Mumbai had rejected her anticipatory bail application and a plea for interim protection, after which Ms. Setalvad approached the High Court.

Justice Mridula Bhatkar gave interim relief till August 10, when the court will hear Ms. Setalvad’s application challenging the order of the CBI court.

Noting that her passport was already deposited with the Gujarat police, the High Court Bench did not see the possibility of Ms. Setalvad absconding.

Justice Bhatkar rejected outright the CBI’s repeated requests for daily interrogation of Ms. Setalvad during the period of interim relief. The court directed the activists to remain present at the CBI office for interrogation on July 27 and 30, and August 3 and 6 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The CBI told the High Court that Ms. Setalvad’s offences “were of a serious nature which may be a threat to the economy.” In an earlier reply, the agency had called her a threat to national security.

According to the investigating agency her firm Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt., Limited (SCPPL), a private company owned by the couple received foreign donations even though it was not Foreign Contribution Regulation Act compliant. The activist’s lawyer Mihir Desai pointed out that the Ford Foundation, which gave the funds was not a suspect organisation and Ms. Setalvad had taken a written opinion of a senior counsel before accepting foreign money.

“Even IITs and IIMs receive funds from the foundation,” Mr. Desai told the court.

Earlier, the CBI court rejected her anticipatory bail plea on the ground that a prima facie case was made out against her and that the offences against her were of a serious nature. It took note of the fact that the complainant against her was the government of India (Deputy Secretary, Home Ministry) and therefore “not an ordinary person.”

“The case is serious. Documentary evidence has to be seized and custodial interrogation is needed,” Special CBI judge Anis Khan observed.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 1:59:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/teestas-ngo-on-watch-list-as-hc-grants-her-interim-relief-from-arrest/article7461332.ece

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