New Delhi (PTI): CBI has moved the Supreme Court seeking custodial interrogation of social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband, charging them with failing to cooperate in the probe in a case of alleged FCRA violation by misusing foreign funds received by them and posing a threat to communal harmony.
The agency has come out with several grounds to challenge the August 11 order of the Bombay High Court granting anticipatory bail to Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand, after it was denied by the sessions court.
CBI has sought cancellation of their anticipatory bail claiming that the high court had erred in giving relief after “prima facie” finding that Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) provisions were violated, as their company, Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Ltd (SCPPL), had received Rs 1.8 crore from US-based Ford Foundation without mandatory approval from the Centre.
While the couple has denied all charges saying they have been victimised for taking up the cause of riots victims, the agency said after ‘prima facie’ holding that there was misuse of funds they had received from Ford Foundation for which they were “undoubtedly answerable”, the high court ought not have granted anticipatory bail by using its extraordinary discretionary powers.
CBI said the high court ought to have considered that it was not a fit case for granting anticipatory bail to the couple as the alleged offence against them “can have a direct nexus with activity detrimental to the national interest, communal harmony, and the same cannot be unearthed by collecting the bank accounts or from the agreements alone”.
“Interrogation of the respondents is absolutely required in such a situation and, therefore, the order of the high court harm the investigation to a large extent and impede the detection of the ramifications of the crime and the conspiracy involved in it,” the CBI’s petition said while assailing the high court verdict.
The high court had denied CBI the custodial interrogation of the couple saying, “prima facie this court holds that there has been violation under the FCRA. But where is the threat to national security and public interest?”
CBI also alleged that they used to come to the probe office with large number of people standing outside with placards chanting slogans to “pressurise” the agency.
While the high court had directed Setalvad and her husband to cooperate with the investigation and not instigate anyone to protest against CBI, the agency alleged that the couple did not cooperate with the probe and refused to share details of transactions.
CBI had on July 8 registered a case against Setalvad and Anand alleging that her firm SCPPL had received around USD 2.90 lakh (nearly Rs 1.8 crore) in foreign donations, violating FCRA provisions.
According to the agency, SCPPL was not registered under FCRA for collecting money from abroad and the amount of USD 2.90 lakh was, therefore, received in violation of the Act as the organisation needed to seek prior approval from the Union Home Ministry.
Further, foreign funds received by the couple in their two trusts — Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sabrang Trust– were frequently transferred to SCPPL also in complete violation of FCRA norms, the CBI said.
The agency said the high court ought to have considered that they have “surreptitiously” mixed foreign contribution with their domestic funds and committed offence under the law.
CBI has extensively quoted from the narrative reports submitted by Setalvad to the Foundation in which she herself has claimed that “since 2002, we have been regularly contacted by the US Embassy/Consulate Officials for credible information on the justice process in India.
“We understand that the factually accurate inputs provided by us have been quite helpful for the annual reports of the ‘US Congressional Committee on Religious Freedom’ as also the ‘State Department’s Report on Human rights on India’.
It may be noted that this report put India in lower tyre in the religious freedom and made several unsubstantiated remarks on the country including Judiciary,” the petition said.