Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) carried out searches at premises of social activist Teesta Setalvad and her organisation on Tuesday, July 14, in connection with a case of alleged violation of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act in receiving funds from abroad without taking prior permission from the home ministry. The CBI sleuths carried out searches at four places in Mumbai at the premises of Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, Gulam Mohammed Peshimam and office of Sabrang Communications and Publishing, a move flayed by the social activist who said that she was cooperating with the CBI.
“We are surprised and shocked at this,” Teesta said, adding, “We have been offering full cooperation.” The CBI had registered a case on July 8 against all these under IPC section related to criminal conspiracy (120-B) along with provisions of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 and Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 1976. “We had written a letter to CBI offering full cooperation and telling the agency that whatever so-called offences are registered against us, we will cooperate. So we don’t understand the rationale behind this entire operation,” Setalvad, who was at fore front of campaign for 2002 Gujarat riots victims, said.
“We believe that it is a caged-parrot in operation and its a political vendetta and they are trying to humiliate and intimidate us,” she said, noting “the team here is very professional but we don’t know where it will end”. CBI sources said in New Delhi that the case was registered after the agency completed verification of all the documents submitted by the home ministry while referring the probe to the agency. They said it is alleged that the accused named in the FIR, in a criminal conspiracy, accepted foreign contribution without registration and prior permission from the Union home ministry as mandated under FCRA norms.
The government had earlier ordered a CBI probe into the transfer of funds by US-based Ford Foundation to Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Limited (SCPPL) and even froze a bank account of the firm on June 26. It was alleged that at SCPPL violate rules of FCRA in accepting a donation of USD 2.9 lakh from Ford Foundation without getting clearance of the Home Ministry.
According to the rules, an organisation or a private firm can accept donations from overseas only after it is registered under FCRA. The donation was, therefore, a “serious violation” of FCRA provisions which mandate funding from a foreign source to only those recipients who have FCRA registration, the Home Ministry had said while ordering a CBI case.
A bank account of the firm located in Juhu, Mumbai, had also been frozen at the instruction of the Home Ministry. The Gujarat government had earlier asked the Home Ministry to take action against Ford Foundation, alleging that the US-based organisation was “interfering in internal affairs” of the country and also “abetting communal disharmony” through an NGO run by Setalvad.
The fund transfer from Ford Foundation has, at present, to be cleared by a nodal official in the Home Ministry. In April, the government had ordered that funds from Ford Foundation should not be released by any bank to any Indian NGO without mandatory permission from the Home Ministry. There are several cases in which the Gujarat government and Setalvad are waging legal battles. While she has filed several cases against the state government functionaries in connection with post-Godhra riots of 2002, the state police have filed a case of alleged embezzlement of funds against her.