Solicitor General of India Ranjit Kumar has concurred with the findings of an inquiry that held activist Teesta Setalvad of Sabrang Trust culpable for “hatred-filled, disharmony-spreading, ill-will generating, enmity-creating explosive writings”, and said the HRD Ministry can file an FIR against her under Sections 153A and 153B of the IPC.
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According to sources, the HRD Ministry under Smriti Irani had approached the SG directly for legal opinion on the recommendations of the panel headed by Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat Central University Syed A Bari. Her successor, Prakash Javadekar, now has to take a final call on the matter.
Kumar is learnt to have “appreciated” the in-depth findings of the report and observed that the charge of creating disharmony through the study material prepared by Sabrang Trust is well supported with evidence.
The three-member inquiry panel against Setalvad and her NGO was constituted in 2014 on the basis of a complaint by Ahmedabad-based Rais Khan Pathan, a former aide of Setalvad’s who fell out with her several years ago. His complaint alleged that the activist and her husband Javed Anand embezzled public money given to their NGO under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a flagship programme of the HRD Ministry. Sabrang Trust was tasked to prepare supplementary readers for teachers and students in Mumbai schools.
The probe report was submitted in July 2015. However, the HRD Ministry dispatched its findings for Kumar’s legal opinion only this year.
As first reported by The Indian Express on October 18, the committee, in its report, is said to have pointed out that Sabrang Trust should never have been considered by the HRD Ministry for a scheme of assistance on education since education was never its objective. Careful scrutiny of the trust application would have led to its rejection but the ministry chose to sanction Rs 2.06 crore for a two-year project and Rs 1.39 crore was disbursed, the committee is said to have stated in its report.
The committee said that officials who were in the HRD Ministry when the UPA was in power “can’t escape accountability” because Rs 1.39 crore was released to Sabrang Trust though it was not eligible for it.
The committee, sources said, was of the view that Sabrang Trust was spreading a political agenda which was apparent from some of its literature.