08, Feb 2017
IND 003 / 0716 / OBS 054.1
February 8, 2017
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in India.
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders Ms. Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Mr. Javed Anand. Ms. Setalvad is the founder of Sabrang Trust, a non-governmental organisation that works to promote conflict resolution and support peace building, as well as of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). Within the framework of CJP, Ms. Setalvad has notably been at the forefront of protests and legal interventions on behalf of victims and their families regarding crimes committed against Muslims during the Gujarat riots of 2002, and has been sharply critical of the then Gujarat State government led by Mr. Narendra Modi, now Prime Minister of India.
According to the information received, on February 3, 2017, Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand appeared before the Mumbai Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Magistrate Court, related to charges they are facing for alleged violations of Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code (criminal conspiracy) and the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act (FCRA). The CBI decided to grant them bail on the surety of Rs 20,000 (about 280 EUR), but they cannot leave the country without court’s permission. The next hearing in this case is scheduled for May 12, 2017.
Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand had been summoned by the court after the CBI filed a charge sheet on January 3, 2017 against them and their publishing company, Sabrang Communications and Publishing Private Limited (SCPPL), for alleged criminal conspiracy and alleged violations of the FCRA, in relation to funding received from the US-based Ford Foundation without the prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Yet, according to Ms. Teesta Setalvad, the publishing house had a consultancy contract with the Ford Foundation, which excluded it from the restrictions of the FCRA.
The Observatory expresses its deepest concern about the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand, which seems to be merely aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities, in particular their work for justice and truth with regard to the 2002 Gujarat riots (see background information).
The Observatory also urges the Indian authorities to ensure that all judicial proceedings against Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand are conducted in full compliance with their right to a fair trial, as provided for under international law.
Judicial proceedings have been ongoing against Ms. Teesta Setalvad and her spouse since 2013, based on spurious charges of alleged embezzlement of funds intended for the construction of a memorial to the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Ms. Teesta Setalvad had to seek anticipatory bail from the Supreme Court in relation to this case. An investigation that began in January 2014 has resulted in continuous harassment and systematic probes into the accounts of Sabrang Trust and groundless accusations of non-cooperation. On July 14, 2015, Ms. Teesta Setalvad’s house and office were raided by officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation and on June 29, 2015, a travel ban was imposed on her.
On February 12, 2015, the Gujarat High Court denied anticipatory bail to Ms. Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Mr. Javeed Anand. 40 minutes later, Gujarat police arrived at their residence in Mumbai. However, on the same day the Supreme Court issued a stay on the High Court order, which prevented the couple from being arrested.
On March 10, 2015, the Government of Gujarat’s Home Department wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs, ordering the Ministry to carry out an inspection of Sabrang Trust upon allegation of FCRA violations.
From April 9 to 11, 2015, a four-member FCRA Inspection Team headed by Shri Mahendra Kumar, Deputy Secretary (MHA/GOI), inspected the accounts and related records of Sabrang Trust in Mumbai. All original documents and photocopies as required by the Inspection Team were submitted, along with printouts of books of accounts of Sabrang Trust’s FCRA account and the Inspection Team acknowledged receipt of all these documents.
Sabrang Trust subsequently received an official post-inspection communication from the FCRA department. The notice, signed by Under Secretary Shri Anand Joshi, who was not part of the Inspection Team, and dated June 4, 2015, made several ”observations” concerning alleged violations of the FCRA, 2010 and the FCR Rules, 2011.
Through a detailed letter dated June 25, 2015, Sabrang Trust responded to each allegation, point-by-point, highlighting how, contrary to what was claimed in the “observations”, the Trust had not violated any provision of the FCR Act and Rules.
Sabrang Trust received an ‘Order’ dated September 9, 2015, signed by Deputy Secretary Shri Mahendra Kumar (who had headed the Inspection Team in April 2015), suspending the FCRA registration of Sabrang Trust for a period of 180 days.
In response, through a detailed letter dated October 5, 2015, addressed to the Deputy Secretary, Sabrang Trust challenged again the ‘Order’, denying once again having committed any FCRA violation. The Trust requested that it be given an opportunity for its members to present the case in person before the FCRA authorities.
Subsequently, Sabrang Trust received a letter dated March 30, 2016 signed by Shri D.P. Tripathy, Director of FCRA Monitoring Unit, asking Mr. Javeed Anand, Sabrang Trust’s Chief Functionary, to appear before him on April 16, 2016 to present Sabrang Trust’s case. Accordingly, Mr. Javed Anand and a lawyer appeared before the Director of FCRA Monitoring Unit to further support Sabrang Trust’s contention that it had not violated any provision of the FCR Act and Rules. The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.
On June 16, 2016, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced on its website that the licence of Sabrang Trust had been cancelled under FCRA with “immediate effect”.
Please write to the authorities in India, urging them to:
i. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javeed Anand, as well as against all human rights defenders and organisations in India so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrances;
ii. Review the FCRA and amend the law and related implementing policies to ensure that they are in conformity to international law and human rights standards;
iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2; and
iv. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by India.
· Mr. Shri Nanredra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 11 2301 6857. E-mail: [email protected](link sends e-mail) / [email protected](link sends e-mail)
· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 11 2309 2979. Email: [email protected](link sends e-mail)
· Sh. B. K. Singh, Under Secretary (FCRA), Ministry of Home Affairs, Email: [email protected](link sends e-mail)
· Justice T.S. Thakur,, Chief Justice of India, Supreme Court, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: [email protected](link sends e-mail)
· Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: [email protected](link sends e-mail); [email protected](link sends e-mail)
· Mr. Srinivasa Kammath, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human Rights Commission, of India, Email: [email protected](link sends e-mail)
· H.E. Mr. Ajit Kumar, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: [email protected](link sends e-mail)
· Embassy of India in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 6489638 / +32 2 6451869
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of India in your respective country.
Geneva-Paris, February 8, 2017
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members ofProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals[at]fidh.omct.org
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
• Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80