NEW DELHI: The CBI on Tuesday registered a case against civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand and businessman Gulam Mohammed Peshimam and Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd (SCPPL) for receiving funds from foreign entities without registration or prior permission from the government.
The agency’s FIR comes 10 days after the home ministry asked it to probe irregularities and violation of the Foreign Contributions (Regulation) Act (FCRA). Sources said Teesta and others are likely to be questioned soon.
CBI sources told TOI that Teesta, Anand (both directors of Sabrang) and Peshimam, founder member of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) — also run by Teesta — have been booked under provisions of FCRA after examining the home ministry’s complaint which points to prima facie “illegal diversion of funds”. Sources said the guilty in such cases could face imprisonment of up to five years.
It is alleged that Sabrang Trust and CJP both received foreign contribution and this was diverted to SCPPL. Sources said Sabrang Trust received around Rs 1 crore in violation of provisions of the FCRA, 1976 as well as those of FCRA, 2010.
The agency is examining documents related to the company and bank account details besides the home ministry inspection reports of SCPPL’s accounts and records for 2006-07 to 2014-15.
Teesta has had a running battle with the Gujarat government since the 2002 riots.
Gujarat Police had earlier accused Teesta and her husband of diverting and misusing funds received for the state’s riot victims, a charge which she described as ‘victimization’ by the Modi government.
The home ministry’s inspection of Teesta’s NGOs revealed several violations, primarily relating to receipt of foreign contribution without FCRA registration or prior permission, failure to maintain an exclusive book of accounts for foreign contributions received and utilized, using foreign funds to lobby with political parties, mixing foreign contributions with domestic contributions, publication of a monthly periodical ‘Communalism Combat’ and writing of columns by its two directors in leading newspapers despite FCRA debarring use of foreign funds for publishing and media ventures, and diverting funds from the stated purpose of charitable, scientific literacy or education.
Ordering a CBI probe, home minister Rajnath Singh’s communication to the agency said, “Considering the gravity and complexity of the case and that since the amount involved is more than Rs 1 crore, it has been decided, with the approval of the competent authority, to get this matter investigated more thoroughly … The CBI is, therefore, requested to conduct an investigation into this case in terms of Section 43 to 46 of FCRA, 2010.”
The home ministry had served notice to Teesta’s two NGOs last month seeking their response to the alleged violations.
CJP, which has been fighting cases for 2002 riot victims, had received a total foreign contribution of around Rs 1.18 crore from 2008-09 to 2013-14. While the entity was registered for ‘educational and economic’ purposes, it received foreign contribution for activities such as ‘legal aid’ in violation of FCRA rules.
The home ministry’s inspection also found that an amount of Rs 50 lakh was allegedly transferred by Sabrang Trust to SCPPL which is not registered under FCRA. It also found Sabrang Trust spending more than 50% of its foreign contributions for administrative purposes which is not permitted under FCRA. The notice says the Trust received foreign contributions to the tune of Rs 48 lakh in 2010-11 and Rs 49 lakh in 2011-12. Of this, it spent more than 64% and 55% as administrative expenses.
The inspection at the premises of the two NGOs was undertaken days after the receipt of a letter from the Gujarat government in April, alleging several FCRA violations by the NGOs run by Teesta and her husband Javed Anand.