13, Jul 2018 | CJP Team
In the latest in the long drawn out vendetta campaign against Human Rights Defenders Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, the Gujarat High Court heard the matter of their anticipatory bail applications in a false case on July 13, 2018. The case was adjourned till July 27, 2018. The stay on arrest was also extended to that date. The Investigating Officer was directed to file an affidavit (rejoinder) on July 23, 2018.
The matter pertains to baseless allegations against the duo that they used fraudulent means to obtain funds for the education NGO KHOJ under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and then misappropriated them.
A brief background of the case
The grants/aid for the KHOJ project undertaken by Sabrang Trust was released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Anand and Setalvad are the founder member and secretary respectively. The ‘KHOJ’ project for which the grants/aid were being released was restricted to the territorial jurisdiction of the State of Maharashtra only. The beneficiaries of the project ‘KHOJ’ were as many as 6000 students in 75 schools, which would include the 2000 students in 33 schools across Maharashtra where KHOJ classes were already being conducted.
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The terms and conditions of the HRD Ministry required that a separate account be opened for the Ministry’s grant. To this end, an account with the name Sabrang Trust-HRD was opened with the bank branch of Union Bank of Indian, Juhu Tara Road. The entire amount received was transferred from the Sabrang Trust to the Sabrang Trust-HRD account. Setalvad and Anand clarified that all payments related to the KHOJ project ONLY were made from the Sabrang Trust-HRD accounts. An un-utilised amount of approximately Rs 5,91,000/- was also returned to the ministry by demand draft after the completion of the project in June 2014.
In all an amount 1,42,23,797/ (including bank interest) was available for the project ‘KHOJ’ and the Petitioners through their Sabrang Trust utilized and amount of Rs. Rs. 1,36,31,686/- only and the remainder amount of Rs.5,91,871/- was returned to the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
The role of a political stooge
The KHOJ case was filed by Rais Khan, a disgruntled former employee and stooge of a vindictive state. He has been used multiple times to file such fake cases in the past. He has gone forum shopping and filed over a dozen different cases against Setalvad and her team over the years for which he has also been handsomely rewarded by way of a nomination to the Central Waqf Council. Lawyers who have appeared for Khan include those who are on the rolls of the Gujarat state and government.
In this case, too, Khan first tried to goad the CBI and MHRD into launching this witch-hunt but when that did not work, went to his preferred forum, the Crime Branch Ahmedabad. In the complaint filed by Rais Khan, he himself admits that though he was aware of the ‘wrong-doing’ in 2014, he waited four years for the complaint to be filed!
Deliberate harassment by switching jurisdiction
Setalvad and Anand believe, and rightly so, that the Gujarat police have no jurisdiction to enquire and investigate the said offence and that they ought to have transferred the case to the Maharashtra police or Delhi police as the cause of action has never arisen in the State of Gujarat.
The FIR should not have been lodged in Gujarat as the matter pertains to funds that were meant to be used in Maharashtra only for the purpose of education under the Human Resource and Development (HRD) Ministry’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. They have filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court demanding that the FIR be quashed! The couple have submitted in this petition that the Investigating Officer (IO) has deliberately given the address of the Field Office of CJP in a “labored attempt to somehow connect the alleged offences with the state of Gujarat.”
Politically motivated move
The entire procedure of filing the FIR and the investigation is believed to be nothing but yet another feeble attempt to deter the petitioners (Setalvad and Anand) from continuing from fighting for upholding the constitutional rights of the victims and survivors of communal and sectarian violence.
It was because of the work done by the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) of which Setalvad is the Secretary, that many of the key accused could even be named in the Gujarat carnage cases. In fact, it was because of the legal aid provided by CJP that convictions of nearly 170 people could be secured. This is why the present regime in India has been trying to punish her by foisting a whole host of fake cases and false allegations upon her.
Both Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand are pioneers in their own fields. While Javed Anand was awarded with the ‘Knight of the Order of Merit’ by the then French President in the year 2005 and in 2007. He was awarded with Minorities Rights Award by the National Minorities Commission and has been conferred many other awards for his writing and his work on communal harmony.
Setalvad was awarded with a ‘Padma Shri’ in 2007 for her contribution in the field of Public Affiars. She is an award winning journalist and educationist and human rights activist. Through her illustrious career, she worked at various reputed media houses namely The Daily, The Indian Express, The Business India etc. Since August 1993, she was the editor of the popular magazine ‘Communalism Combat’, a unique publication initiative to promote values of peace, secularism and justice.