The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday, 16th June 2016 has cancelled “with immediate effect” the registration of Sabrang Trust under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 (FCRA).
This NGO is run by civil rights activist Teesta Setelvad, who is known for espousing the cause of Gujarat riot victims. Her organization now stands banned from receiving funds from any ‘foreign source’.
Teesta has said that she will “actively explore all legal options to challenge the MHA’s order”.
MHA on the other hand has argued that foreign funds received by the NGO under the FCRA license had not been used for the rightful purposes!
The following, according to MHA, are some of the FCRA violations:
- Sabrang Trust made direct payment of around Rs 12 lakh from FCRA designated account to City Bank and Union Bank of India for credit card payments of cards belonging to Teesta and her husband Javed Anand. The money as per the MHA order was used purely for personal gains. The foreign contributions, according to MHA, were spent by the couple on personal expenditure like dining in hotels, food takeaways ordered at residence, cakes and sweets from premium outlets and also on sundry items, sanitary napkins, etc. That was in violation of Section 8(1) of FCRA 2010.
- The Trust spent up to 65 percent of the FCRA funds on administrative expenses, something which is not allowed as per the law (The FC Rules lay a cap of not more than 50% on admin costs without permission of MHA).
- Correspondents, columnists, cartoonists, editor, owners are included under Sabrang Communications and Publishing Private Limited. Teesta and Javed Anand are chief functionaries/Trustees of Sabrang Trust and also work as director, co-editors, printers, publishers of Sabrang communications which published a magazine communalism combat. Both entities functioned from same premises with same set of staff, infrastructure and other resources. This is a violation of Section 3(1)(b)&(h) of FCRA 2010.
- The Trust transferred around Rs 2,50,000/- from the FCRA bank account to domestic account, which is liable to treated as mis-utilisation of funds under FC Rules.
- Bulk purchase of sms for propaganda using foreign funds.
- While Sabrung Trust was registered for “educational and social” purposes, it received and spent substantive amount of foreign contribution under “cultural” head.
- Even Javed Anand’s international medical policy for attending a Lahore Conference was paid by foreign contribution. Same was the case for his travel related expenses and purchase of books for attending a PUCL conference.
Reportedly Teesta's Sabrang Communications and Publishing, which is not registered under FCRA, also received US $ 290,000 from the US-based Ford Foundation between 2004 and 2014 without the government approval. The Ford Foundation was subsequently put on the “watch-list” following a Gujarat government complaint that it was interfering in India's "internal affairs" and encouraging Teesta's NGOs to promote "communal disharmony". However, Ford Foundation since January 2016 has been taken off MHA’s “watch list”.
Teesta's national or international fame came after she, her husband and some others formed an NGO "Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP)" in April 2002. The CPJ began to litigate in various courts against the alleged complicity of Narendra Modi and other persons then in authority in Gujarat government.
Though there are cases against her, Gujarat Police can’t arrest her for now because she has got interim protection from Supreme Court where she had filed an appeal after Gujarat High Court rejected her anticipatory bail application.