Seeking permission for arrest and custodial interrogation of social activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand, the Gujarat police has requested the Supreme Court to modify its order on protecting the couple from arrest so that the full extent of their “crimes against charity can be unearthed.” In an additional affidavit filed in response to an anticipatory bail plea moved by Teesta and her husband, the police contended that the couple committed “colossal fraud” and “dishonestly misappropriated” funds meant for the 2002 Gujarat riots victims.
Teesta’s petition is likely to come up for hearing before a three-judge bench on August 10. A two-judge bench had in March referred the bail plea to a larger bench while extending protection from arrest to the couple.
The police have claimed that the money, collected for constructing a memorial for the riots victims and for their aid, was spent by the couple for personal expenses ranging from wine and liquor, expensive mobile phones, movie CDs, romantic novels, hair-styling, dining etc.
The police said Setalvad and Anand as trustees of two trusts — Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) — have by “diverse methods” allegedly “misappropriated the funds of charity and converted to their own use funds meant for the rehabilitation and welfare of the unfortunate victims of riots in Gujarat in Feb-March 2002”.
It said the probe into the case of alleged embezzlement of funds for a museum at Gulbarg Society, devastated in the 2002 riots, revealed that expenses of “very personal nature” have been debited by them under the heads “Secular Education” and “Legal Aid Expenses”.
The investigation revealed that Setalvad claimed reimbursement towards purchase of sanitary napkins in the name of medical expense and “surprisingly” her husband too claimed reimbursement for it, as per the affidavit.
The affidavit said 45 per cent of total funds received by Sabrang Trust in 2008-13 have gone to Setalvad and her husband either directly or through Sabrang Communications Pvt Limited (SCPPL), which was fully owned by them. The affidavit stated that Teesta drew a salary of Rs 8.75 lakh and that she flew 113 times in a year. “The inescapable conclusion is that the entire amount paid by Sabrang Trust to SCPPL has been siphoned by petitioner under the guise of cash withdrawal and cheque payments. SCPPL is a vehicle used by the petitioners for the purpose of siphoning donations to the Sabrang Trust,” it said.
The police also contested the couple’s argument that the Gujarat Police was hounding them. “Limited documents furnished by the petitioners unambiguously disclose the patent fraud on their part and expose their protestations as being hollow,” said the affidavit.