The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday suspended the registration of activist Teesta Setalvad’s Sabrang Trust under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA) for a period of 180 days, owing to alleged violation of the Act’s provisions.
The MHA alleges that Sabrang Trust violated FCRA provisions that prohibit columnists, editors, owners, printers or publishers of a registered newspaper from accepting foreign contributions, and transfer of foreign contribution to other parties that have not been registered. It has also been accused of mixing of foreign and domestic contribution, and utilisation of foreign contribution for seemingly personal gains and unauthorised purposes.
According to the order, on the basis of available inputs against the association, an on-site inspection of its records and accounts was conducted from April 9 to 11 at its registered office in Mumbai, and the findings were communicated to Sabrang Trust on June 5. The ministry, the order stated, examined the reply given by the association, through its letter dated June 2015, and found it unsatisfactory on various grounds.
The order also said that during inspection of records, it was noticed that both Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand were Chief Functionary/Trustee of associations of Sabrang Trust, registered under FCRA,1976 (repealed with FCRA, 2010). It added that during the probe it was found that they were running a magazine Communalism Combat as co-editors as well as printer and publisher of their company Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Ltd (SCPPL) and allegedly received foreign contribution. This, the order said, was in violation of Section 3 (1) (b) and (h) of FCRA, 2010.
According to the order, Sabrang Trust spent 64.23 per cent (2010-11) and 55.14 per cent (2011-12) of their grant on administrative expenses. This, it alleged, violated section 8 (1) (b) of FCRA, 2010 that calls for MHA approval before incurring expenses on administrative head exceeding fifty per cent limit.
Citing violation of different FCRA provisions, the order also alleged that payments of Rs 50 lakh, made by Sabrang Trust to SCPPL, were used for personal gains.
In January 2011, the order said, Sabrang Trust allegedly transferred an amount of Rs 2,46,954 from its foreign contribution designated account to Sabrang Trust domestic account “without any logical reasons”, which “raises the suspicion of mixing of funds by the association and it can be treated as non-utilisation of foreign contribution for the purpose which it was received and mixing of foreign contribution with domestic contribution.”