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Thursday, 16 June 2016

No foreign funds for Teesta Setalvad's NGO as govt cancels FCRA licence

New Delhi: The Modi government on Thursday cancelled the permanent registration of activist Teesta Setalvad's NGO, Sabrang Trust, under the Foreign Contributions Registration Act, 2010, citing six violations ranging from diversion of foreign funds to activities barred under the Act and meeting personal expenses of both Setalvad and husband/co-trustee Javed Anand to paying their credit card bills. The NGO, which said
the cancellation order brought no surprise to its trustees and that the allegations showed a complete non-application of mind, can no longer receive foreign funding but continue operations with domestic funds. Incidentally, the FCRA licence of Sabrang Trust was suspended for the last nine months, rendering the NGO ineligible for foreign funding. Earlier, another NGO run by Teesta Setalvad, Citizens for Justice and Peace, was placed on prior permission, requiring all foreign contributions to it to be approved by the home ministry. Her private firm, Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd (SCPPL), too is facing a CBI probe.
On Sept 9, while suspending Sabrang Trust's FCRA licence for six months, MHA had also served it a cancellation notice, seeking a reply on the FCRA violations detected, within a month. However, the MHA in February-March 2016 discovered that the Sabrang Trust file was missing, and it was only after the file was recovered from MHA under-secretary Anand Joshi, now facing a CBI probe, that it fixed a personal hearing for the NGO on April 11.
The reply and explanation offered by Sabrang for the alleged FCRA violations was not found satisfactory, leading the home ministry to cancel permanent FCRA registration of the NGO on Thursday with immediate effect.
Sabrang Trust in a statement, said "the trustees regret to note that today's order of the home ministry is simply a mechanical reiteration of the very same allegations made earlier, in total disregad to the detailed and reasoned explanations and arguments put forward by the trust". It further said "that the cancellation was imminent was apparent from the mere show of a personal hearing granted to Sabrang Trust on April 11, 2016...the hearing was over in less than 10 minutes".
Sabrang Trust said it would explore all legal options to challenge the cancellation order.
The action against Sabrang Trust follows within a fortnight of suspension of FCRA licence of Lawyers Collective, an NGO run by former attorney general Indira Jaising. Teesta, incidentally, is Jaising's client.
As per FCRA violations cited in the order, Sabrang Trust made direct payments of Rs 12 lakh from its FCRA designated account to Citibank and Union Bank of India on account of credit cards belonging to Teesta and Javed respectively. This is tantamount to using foreign funds for personal gain, said the home ministry. Besides, foreign funds were also used for personal expenses such as dining in hotels, food takeaways and purchase of purely personal items like earbuds, wet wipes, nail clippers and sanitary napkins by both Teesta and Javed. This violates Section 8(1) of FCRA.
Sabrang Trust also diverted Rs 50 lakh to SCPPL, which was utilised for activities prohibited under the FCRA. It was found that Teesta and Javed were also working as directors, co-editors in SCPPL, which publishes the magazine "Communalism Combat". Both wrote articles in newspapers and magazines. Since both Sabrang Trust and SCPPL were functioning from the same premises, this violated Section 3, 7 and 8(1) of FCRA, says the order.

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