A corruption case registered Monday by the CBI against Home Ministry Under Secretary Anand Joshi, who was also accused of being in illegal possession of a file relating to actions under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) against activist Teesta Setalvad’s NGO Sabrang Trust, has triggered a spat within the Ministry.
Summoned by the CBI Wednesday, Joshi Tuesday accused his seniors of targeting him because he “refused to go soft” on donor agency Ford Foundation.
“I was offered around Rs 200-250 crore to remove Ford Foundation from a blacklist. When I refused, the organisation lodged a complaint with the PMO. Officers in my department, such as Additional Secretary B K Prasad, began pressuring me to give a clean chit to Ford Foundation. When I refused, all these allegations of corruption were levelled against me. I never removed the file on Sabrang Trust either,” Joshi told The Indian Express.
When his comments were sought, B K Prasad said, “He (Joshi) is talking rubbish. This is a matter of CBI investigation. The truth will come out.”
Incidentally, Prasad is the officer inquiring how certain documents in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case went missing from the Ministry.
An email and phone calls to Ford Foundation got no response.
While booking Joshi, the CBI, in a statement, said he “had been indulging in corrupt activities and arbitrarily issuing notices to large number of NGOs/Societies registered under FCRA who had been receiving significant amount of foreign contribution”.
Joshi, the CBI said, “allegedly demanded and obtained illegal gratification from some of these organisations, which were laundered through various immovable assets as well as certain private companies”.
The CBI claimed to have recovered Rs 7.5 lakh and documents, including files pertaining to the Home Ministry and the I&B Ministry, during searches of four locations in the residential and office premises of Joshi and others.
Joshi was shunted out of the foreigners division of the Home Ministry dealing with foreign-funded NGOs over alleged corruption. It is alleged that in December-January, he took the file on Sabrang Trust whose registration under the FCRA was suspended in September 2015 for six months. Ministry officials said they realised that the file was missing only when the suspension period drew to a close this March.
They claimed to have “extracted” the file from Joshi last month.
In April 2015, the Ministry put Ford Foundation, one of the donors to Sabrang Trust, under the “prior approval category”, which meant that all funds from the organisation to recipients in India would have to be cleared by the government. It was also put on the Ministry’s watchlist in the interest of “national security”.
In March this year, the Ministry decided to remove Ford Foundation from the “prior permission” category.
Meanwhile, in a statement released Tuesday, Sabrang Trust questioned how files pertaining to it had landed in Joshi’s possession.
“The trustees of Sabrang Trust are relieved to note from news reports in the media that certain files pertaining to the Trust which had gone missing from the FCRA department have been recovered,” the statement said.
“Sabrang Trust hopes that these are the files which have all the detailed responses and documents it had given to the MHA to support its claims that there were no FCRA violations and that the ‘Order’ of the FCRA department dated September 9, 2015 to suspend the FCRA registration had been arrived at in an arbitrary manner without application of mind,” it stated.
“The Trustees are intrigued about these files being in possession of Under Secretary Mr Anand Joshi when the inspection of the Trust was conducted by a team led by Deputy Secretary Mahendra Kumar. Mr Joshi was not part of the 4-member Inspection Team which had visited the Trust’s office in Mumbai for inspection,” it stated.
“We further state that other than one official communication from the FCRA department signed by Shri Anand Joshi, Under Secretary, and the Trust’s response to it… at no point was there any other communication of any kind from him to the Trust/its Trustees,” it stated.