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NNWN / New Delhi, 2015-09-10

Social  activist Teesta Setalvad is in for big trouble now as the  government is all set to crack down on her NGO Sabrang Trust. The Ministry of Home Affairs has cleared the file revoking the FCRA registration of activist Teesta Setalvad's NGO Sabrang Trust. The new home secretary Rajeev Mehrishi  has given his go ahead to suspend the registration of Sabrang Trust under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010, and also serving it a notice for cancellation of the NGO’sFCRA licence.The  move will block  all foreign funding to the NGO, charged with divert ing foreign contributions including those received from Ford Foundation to non-FCRA registered entities, besides violating several other FCRA provisions.  

A leading English daily, the Times of India quoted sources in the home ministry and said that the order suspending Sabrang Trust's FCRA registration for 180 days as well as the cancellation notice have been approved by the "competent authority" and may be issued as early as on Thursday. The suspension order, to be issued under Section 13 of FCRA, will list in detail the violations of conditions for grant of certificate of registration.

It may be noted here that Setalvad’s another NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), is being placed in the prior permission list, requiring all foreign contributions to it to be pre-approved by the home ministry. Earlier, a CBI case was registered against Sabrang Communications and Publishing Private Limited (SCPPL), a private firm of which Teesta is a director, on the directions of the home ministry. The case against Sabrang Trust is strong, sources in the home ministry said  It is charged with using $2,50,000 worth of foreign contribution received from Ford Foundation for purposes other than for what it was received or what is permitted as per the mandate of its registration under FCRA. The trust is alleged to have used the Ford grant to identify and lobby with mediapersons to "address communalism and caste-based discrimination in India" while being registered under FCRA as an "educational and social" organisation. As per findings of an inspection conducted by the home ministry of Sabrang Trust's records/accounts on March 25, Setalvad and her husband were chief functionary/trustee of the Trust while also writing articles in a magazine, "Communalism Combat", published by SCPPL, in violation of FCRA norms. Also, it was noticed that the NGO had spent over 64% of total donation worth Rs 48.42 lakh received in 2010-11 and 55% of Rs 49.1 lakh received in 2011-12 on administrative expenses, in excess of the 50% cap mandated under FCRA. According to a senior ministry official, Setalvad's three organisations - Sabrang Trust, CJP and SCPPL - were using the same office, furniture and resources but showing them separately in their respective accounts. Sabrang Trust is also alleged to have mixed funds from its FCRA designated account with its domestic funds, apart from diverting foreign funds., the daily said

Another violation mentioned in the inspection report was payment of Setalvad and Anand's credit card bills with funds from Sabrang Trust's FCRA-designated account, in violation of Section 8(1) of FCRA. Anand is also accused of diverting FCRA funds to pay for his medical policy, attending conferences and purchase of books. Sabrang Trust, in its response to the MHA inspection report shared with it on June 4, 2015, denied the charges. Setalvad has earlier described the action against her NGOs as "politically motivated" and arising out of her past move to challenge the erstwhile Modi government in Gujarat over the 2002 riots.