India
08.02.17
Urgent Interventions

Ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders Ms. Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Mr. Javed Anand

New information

IND 003 / 0716 / OBS054.1

Judicial harassment
India
February 8, 2017


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership ofthe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received newinformation and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation inIndia.

New information:


TheObservatory has been informed by reliable sources of the ongoing judicialharassment of human rights defenders Ms.Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Mr. JavedAnand. Ms. Setalvad is the founder of Sabrang Trust, a non-governmental organisation that works to promote conflictresolution and support peace building, as well as of Citizens for Justice andPeace (CJP). Within the framework of CJP, Ms. Setalvad has notably beenat the forefront of protests and legal interventions on behalf of victims andtheir families regarding crimes committed against Muslims during the Gujaratriots of 2002, and has been sharply critical of the then Gujarat Stategovernment led by Mr. Narendra Modi, now Prime Minister of India.

Accordingto the information received, on February 3, 2017, Ms. TeestaSetalvad and Mr. Javed Anand appeared before the Mumbai Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Magistrate Court, related tocharges they are facing for alleged violations ofSection 120 B of the Indian Penal Code (criminal conspiracy) and the Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act (FCRA). The CBI decided togrant them bail on the surety of Rs 20,000 (about 280 EUR), but theycannot leave the country without court’s permission. The next hearing inthis case is scheduled for May 12, 2017.

Ms.Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand had beensummoned by the court after the CBI filed a charge sheet on January 3, 2017against them and their publishing company, Sabrang Communications andPublishing Private Limited (SCPPL), for alleged criminalconspiracy and alleged violations of theFCRA, in relation to funding received from the US-based Ford Foundation withoutthe prior approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Yet, according to Ms.Teesta Setalvad, the publishing house had a consultancy contract with the FordFoundation, which excluded it from the restrictions of the FCRA.

The Observatory expresses its deepestconcern about the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms.Teesta Setalvad and Mr. Javed Anand, which seems to be merely aimed at sanctioning their human rightsactivities, in particular their work for justice and truth with regard to the 2002 Gujaratriots (see background information).

TheObservatory also urges the Indian authorities to ensure that all judicialproceedings against Ms. Teesta Setalvad and Mr.Javed Anand are conducted in full compliance with their right toa fair trial, as provided for under international law.

Background information:

Judicial proceedings have been ongoingagainst Ms. Teesta Setalvad and her spouse since 2013, based on spuriouscharges of alleged embezzlement of funds intended for the construction of amemorial to the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Ms. Teesta Setalvad had toseek anticipatory bail from the Supreme Court in relation to this case. An investigationthat began in January 2014 has resulted in continuous harassment and systematicprobes into the accounts of Sabrang Trust and groundless accusations ofnon-cooperation. On July 14, 2015, Ms. Teesta Setalvad's house and office wereraided by officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation and on June 29, 2015,a travel ban was imposed on her.

On February 12, 2015, the Gujarat High Court denied anticipatory bail toMs. Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Mr. Javeed Anand. 40 minutes later,Gujarat police arrived at their residence in Mumbai. However, on the same daythe Supreme Court issued a stay on the High Court order, which prevented thecouple from being arrested.

On March 10, 2015, the Government of Gujarat’s Home Department wrote tothe Ministry of Home Affairs, ordering the Ministry to carry out an inspectionof Sabrang Trust upon allegation of FCRA violations.

From April 9 to 11, 2015, afour-member FCRA Inspection Team headed by Shri Mahendra Kumar, DeputySecretary (MHA/GOI), inspected the accounts and related records of SabrangTrust in Mumbai. All original documents and photocopies as required by theInspection Team were submitted, along with printouts of books of accounts ofSabrang Trust’s FCRA account and the Inspection Team acknowledged receipt ofall these documents.

Sabrang Trust subsequentlyreceived an official post-inspection communication from the FCRA department.The notice, signed by Under Secretary Shri Anand Joshi, who was not part of theInspection Team, and dated June 4, 2015, made several ”observations” concerningalleged violations of the FCRA, 2010 and the FCR Rules, 2011.

Through a detailed letterdated June 25, 2015, Sabrang Trust responded to each allegation,point-by-point, highlighting how, contrary to what was claimed in the“observations”, the Trust had not violated any provision of the FCR Act andRules.

Sabrang Trust received an'Order' dated September 9, 2015, signed by Deputy Secretary Shri Mahendra Kumar(who had headed the Inspection Team in April 2015), suspending the FCRAregistration of Sabrang Trust for a period of 180 days.

In response, through adetailed letter dated October 5, 2015, addressed to the Deputy Secretary,Sabrang Trust challenged again the 'Order', denying once again having committedany FCRA violation. The Trust requested that it be given an opportunity for itsmembers to present the case in person before the FCRA authorities.

Subsequently, Sabrang Trustreceived a letter dated March 30, 2016 signed by Shri D.P. Tripathy, Director ofFCRA Monitoring Unit, asking Mr. Javeed Anand, Sabrang Trust's ChiefFunctionary, to appear before him on April 16, 2016 to present Sabrang Trust'scase. Accordingly, Mr. Javeed Anand and a lawyer appeared before the Directorof FCRA Monitoring Unit to further support Sabrang Trust's contention that ithad not violated any provision of the FCR Act and Rules. The meeting lastedless than 10 minutes.

On June 16, 2016, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced on its websitethat the licence of Sabrang Trust had been cancelled under FCRA with “immediate effect”.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in India,urging them to:

i. Put an end to all acts ofharassment - including at the judicial level - against Ms. Teesta Setalvad andMr. JaveedAnand, as well asagainst all human rights defenders and organisations in India so that they areable to carry out their work without hindrances;

ii. Review the FCRA and amend the law andrelated implementing policies to ensure that they are in conformity tointernational law and human rights standards;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UNDeclaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of theUnited Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2; and

iv. More generally, ensure in allcircumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and withinternational and regional human rights instruments ratified by India.


Addresses:

· Mr. Shri Nanredra Damodardas Modi, Prime Minister of India, Fax: + 91 112301 6857. E-mail: pmosb@pmo.nic.in / manmo@sansad.in

· Mr. Raj Nath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs of India, Fax: +91 112309 2979. Email: dirfcra-mha@gov.in

· Sh. B. K. Singh, UnderSecretary (FCRA), Ministry of Home Affairs, Email: usfcra-mha@gov.in

· Justice T.S. Thakur,, Chief Justice of India, SupremeCourt, of India, Fax: +91 11 233 83792, Email: supremecourt@nic.in

· Justice Shri H.L. Dattu, Chairperson of the National Human RightsCommission of India, Fax +91 11 2465 1329. Email: covdnhrc@nic.in; ionhrc@nic.in

· Mr. Srinivasa Kammath, Focal Point on Human Rights Defenders, National Human RightsCommission, of India, Email: hrd-nhrc@nic.in

· H.E. Mr. Ajit Kumar, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of India to theUnited Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 906 86 96, Email: mission.india@ties.itu.int

· Embassy of India in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 26489638 / +32 2 6451869

Please also write to the diplomaticmission or embassy of India in your respective country.

***

Geneva-Paris, February 8, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertakenquoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 bythe World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of thisprogramme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.

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