Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summary Response to False Charges (Sabrang Communications)

Summary Response to False Charges (Sabrang Communications)

1993          Sabrang Communications registered in 1993

1993-2000 A series of human rights-related activities were successfully carried out by us and earned us several accolades. (See the Srikrishna Commission Report at

and, which also contains the links to archival issues of Communalism Combat.)

December 2000 Communalism Combat was honoured with the Prince Claus International Award for Exceptional Initiative in the field of Journalism and Development. Believing in the law, we applied for permission to receive the award amount, under Section 31 of the Act (exempting us from operation of Section 4 of the Act), and were duly granted that permission.

April 10, 2001 Communalism Combat receives permission from the MHA (FCRA division) to deposit and use the Award Amount. (We have a copy of this permission).

April 2003 &

2004 Teesta Setalvad, one of the Directors of Sabrang Communications, was co-recipient of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, at a time when the NDA government was in power in Delhi. Teesta Setalvad also received the Prakash Kaphley Award in 2003.UN Secretary General Kofi A. Annan sent a special Congratulatory Message to Teesta Setalvad and her co-recipient of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award on 14.9.2003.

                               We did not accept the award amounts without due process.

We applied for due permission from the Home Ministry and after that, received the award amounts which were then deposited into our bank account. (We have copies of both permissions).

In fact, Mr Soli Sorabjee, the then Attorney General of India, had even written us a letter of congratulation on this achievement!

Is this the conduct of persons who do not believe in the laws of this land?

December 26, 2013  

The Magistrate rejects the Zakia Jafri Protest Petition after several months of arguments.

January 2014           A Malafide FIR is registered against Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, Tanvir Jafri (son of Zakia Jafri who is fighting the case against the Gujarat state for criminal culpability in the violence of 2002). Six bank accounts (personal and organisational) were frozen. A petition to de-freeze these accounts was dismissed by the Bombay High Court on grounds of jurisdiction. Subsequently, the Magistrate in Gujarat dismissed the de-freezing petition on November 28, 2014. De-freezing applications were then filed before the Gujarat High Court and will come up for hearing on 27.7.2015.


2014                        Transit Bail was granted by the Bombay High Court, extended by the Supreme Court and finally ABA (anticipatory bail) was refused by the Sessions Court.

March 15, 2014      In the midst of all this pressure, Teesta Setalvad and the entire

CJP Team files the Criminal Revision Application (CRA) 205/2014 against the Magistrate's Order rejecting the Protest Petition.


March 2014 The Gujarat High Court rejects Bail to Naroda Patiya chief           conspirator and convict, Maya Kodnani.

April 2014-

November 2014      The Gujarat High Court extends protection against arrest to Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and three others.

July 30, 2014           The Gujarat High Court grants bail to Naroda Patiya chief conspirator and convict, Maya Kodnani.


September 2014      Survivors backed by CJP file an SLP challenging the Bail granted to Kodnani as also the commutation of sentence. The Supreme Court of India rejects the SLP but informally gets the Gujarat High Court to amend its order on the commutation of sentence (27.9.2014).

August 2014            Teesta Setalvad faces two Criminal Investigations after a hasty and vindictive Crime Branch (Ahmedabad) and Bhavnagar police lodge FIRs against her for hate speech for a tweet that she removed and apologised for (22.8.2014). She appears before the Crime Branch that serves her a notice within 8 days of the tweet and records a statement for over 6 hours! The Crime Branch headed by the same officers who have been held accountable in the various trials and stand to be held accountable in the Zakia Jafri Case try to block her Anticipatory Bail and thereafter viciously oppose her plans for trial. The Ahmedabad Sessions Court grants her Bail (September 2014) and allows her to travel abroad. She then deposits her passport in October 2014 before the Gujarat lower Court after approaching the High Court for a modification of the bail conditions that required her to deposit the document before the same Crime Branch that bears such a huge animus against her. In November 2014, the Crime Branch tries to seize Teesta Setalvad's laptop when there is no need for that for the investigation. In April 2015, Setalvad applies for permission to travel abroad and is granted permission on 2.5.2015. Again, when she applies for extension of date for return of the passport, this is turned down on 29.6.2015. She has now challenged that Order and requested a Modification and also moved the Gujarat High Court for Quashing of the malafide FIR. Earlier the Gujarat HC had stayed the first FIR lodged in Bhavnagar on the same issue.

November 2014      The Supreme Court of India refuses to lift a stay on the Gulberg Trial Special Court order despite moves by the SIT to get the stay order lifted. Gulberg trial Survivors have been assisted by the CJP team. CJP independently makes periodic representations on both the Gulberg trial and Naroda Gaam trials before the Supreme Court of India (advocates Aparna Bhat, Kamini Jaiswal, Sanjay Parikh).

December 2014      The Gujarat High Court continues protection to Teesta Setalvad and others, and directs all five accused to appear before the IO. All five accused appear before the Crime Branch from December 15, 2014 onwards and again in January 2015.

January 2015          Again, all five accused appear before the Crime Branch and show full cooperation.

February 12, 2015   The Gujarat High Court denies ABA to Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand but grants it to the other three accused. The High Court does not protect the two human rights defenders (HRDs) for even a day (it does not stay its order allowing appeal to the Supreme Court). Worse, in its 64 page judgement, it relies on an affidavit of the IO of the Crime Branch dated June 2014, completely disregarding the 5,000 pages of evidence submitted in our defence that disproves all false allegations of misusing trust funds for personal ends. Until now 25,000 pages of documentary evidence has been provided from our accounts. No charge sheet has yet been filed.

February 12, 2015

February 13, 2015

February 19, 2015   The Supreme Court extends protection against arrest to Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand. This protection continues till date. (Subsequent Orders passed by the Supreme Court on March 19, 2015, April 21, 2015 and July 6, 2015).

March 10, 2015        Defeated in its crass objective of custodial arrest of both HRDs, the Gujarat Government's Home department writes to the MHA (FCRA) alleging violations by all three entities, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Sabrang Trust, and Sabrang Communications. This is the motivation that triggered off the round of MHA Notices and Inspections. This letter from the GOG Home Department to the MHA is even today available on the deshgujarat website and was selectively leaked to the media (completely one-sided coverage by TV channels like Times Now) after the MHA Team had come and completed its Inspections in early April 2015.

April 6-11, 2015 Inspection of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Sabrang Trust accounts by the FCRA Team

April 9 2015             The Supreme Court of India stays the Naroda Patiya appeal of Kodnani that had been singled out for hearing before Justice Tripathi due for retirement in May 2015. Now this appeal has been listed before Justice KS Jhaveri in July 2015 along with all appeals. There is a clear desire to get these appeals disposed of summarily and favourably. CJP is the only group still assisting the Survivors contesting these summary and arbitrary moves in the Courts.

April 10, 2015 During the Inspection, a further query/notice regarding Sabrang Communications is given by hand to us.

April 27, 2015 A Written Response to the Query/Notice is sent.

June 3, 2015            Inspection Notice for Sabrang Communications is received by Fax.

June 9, 2015 A List of Documents is Supplied to the Inspection Team (complete set).

June 9, 2015 Inspection Memo by Inspection Team (while the Inspection Team was inspecting Sabrang Communications accounts).

June 17, 2015     A Response to the Inspection Memo is given by us.

June 18, 2015     Further Communication by us to the FCRA Team.

June 22, 2015     Further Details with Response to the Inspection Memo is sent by us via Speed Post.

June 26, 2015    Newspaper Reports state that the MHA has handed over the Sabrang Communications matter to the CBI, alleging violations.

June 30, 2015     We pro-actively write to the CBI (several departments) providing a detailed background of the matter including the detailed List of documents provided to the MHA Inspection Team. We offer full cooperation and request some notice prior to the inquiry/investigation, if any.

July 8 2015   A Newspaper Report states that the CBI has registered an FIR. Confirmation that the FIR has indeed been lodged under Sections 120b read with Sections 35, 37 of IPC and Section 3, 11 and 19 of the FCRA Act of 2010 (criminal conspiracy and receiving funds illegally).

July 9, 2015    The Gujarat High Court to hear Teesta Setalvad's application for Modification of the Trial Court Order on Conditions of Bail (in the twitter case) and also for Quashing of the malafide second FIR against Teesta Setalvad.

July 13, 2015    The Maya Kodnani and other appeals of Naroda Patiya to start being heard in the Gujarat High Court. The Sardarpura Accused are also applying for bail in the Gujarat HC. While Babu Bajrangi was refused Bail by Justice Pal of the Gujarat HC, Kiran Korani, aide to Kodnani, was granted temporary bail recently.

July 27 2015 Final Hearing in the Zakia Jafri Criminal Revision Application to start. She seeks to make top-level politicians, including the then Gujarat chief minister, and top-level policemen, including the present Commissioner of Police, Shivanand Jha, former joint CP, Crime Branch, AK Sharma (now in the CBI !!), for criminal and administrative culpability for their role in 2002.

De-Freezing petitions (of bank accounts) of both Trusts (CJP and Sabrang) and Teesta and Javed, will also be heard on 27.7.2015.

So apart from the 120 Convictions to life imprisonment that Teesta Setalvad and CJP have been responsible for (due to their intervention in ensuring SC monitoring, Witness Protection and actual legal aid to the Survivors), it is the fact that CJP has not given up and continues, despite harassment and victimization, in its aid that is a real thorn in the flesh to the powers that be in Gandhinagar and Gujarat.

The illegal and malafide strategy of freezing our accounts has been done to cripple us financially and prevent this continuing work. That we have still managed to sustain it, and resist attempts to reduce to naught the successes so far gained in the justice struggle for 2002, is because of the indomitable courage and hard work of our team in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the unflinching vote of confidence and support of our Trustees (both CJP and Sabrang) and the vast band of domestic donors who have continued to chip in so generously to enable us to continue..

It will be a battle to the finish...

No communication has so far been received by us from the CBI.

MHA Stance:

MHA first in its notice had raised basically three important questions about your company. The first is that SCPPL being a private listed company is not entrusted to receive foreign contributions, and by doing so without prior permission, Sabrang Communications, you, have violated section 11 of FCRA regulations. The second that the company didn't keep any records of the foreign funding it received. Thirdly, that the company has been illegally lobbying with political parties. It has, besides, raised questions on the company's expenditures.

The government says your company Sabrang communications has committed FCRA violations and plans to cancel FCRA registration of the NGOs. The accusation is that Sabrang Communication accepted a donation of $290,000 and $131,000 from Ford Foundation in violation of FCRA and without getting prior approval from the union home ministry. 

Our argument/defence:

It was at the instance of the Gujarat government that the MHA began its persistent inspections etc and now by handing over the Inquiry to the CBI, the investigation is directly under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

We have broken no laws.

One: Section 3 of FCRA, 2010 bars certain 'persons' (political parties and its office bearers, government servants and those associated with registered newspapers and those involved in the production and broadcast of news) from receiving foreign donations.

However, the very next section, Section 4 which is subtitled 'Persons to whom section 3 shall not apply' states: "Nothing contained in section 3 shall apply to the acceptance, by any person specified 3 in that section, of any foreign contribution where such contribution is accepted by him, subject to the provisions of section 10- (a) by way of salary, wages or other remuneration due to him or to any group of persons working under him, from any foreign source or by way of payment in the ordinary course of business transacted in India by such foreign source;"

Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt. Ltd. which published the monthly 'Communalism Combat' signed a Consultancy Agreement with Ford Foundation in 2004 and 2006 "to address the issues of caste and communalism" through a clearly defined set of activities which had nothing whatsoever to do with Communalism Combat or remuneration to Javed Anand or Teesta Setalvad towards discharging editorial/managerial functions. The Consultancy was signed by Sabrang Communications only after advice from eminent legal counsel that such an agreement was covered under the exclusion stipulated under Section 4 of the Act and therefore the consultancy fees (not grant or donation) received would not be in violation of FCRA 2010. Ford Foundation in fact deducted TDS with every instalment of consultancy fees it paid to Sabrang Communications. The activities undertaken and the expenses incurred were in accordance with the agreement. Activities and Financial Reports were submitted annual to the satisfaction of Ford Foundation.

Two, Sabrang has kept records and provided copies of the same to the FCRA during the inspection visit of the FCRA team in Mumbai on June 9 and 10, 2015, Additional documents as required were also posted to the FCRA department.

Three: Deliberately or otherwise, the FCRA team is confusing the well- known lobbying that is part of the political process in the USA with advocacy initiatives whereby NGOs, civil society activists engage with the government of the day to draw their attention towards the legitimate issues of women, children, dalits, religious or linguistic or sexual minorities, differently-abled persons etc. It is ridiculous to equate such advocacy initiatives with lobbying.      

Sabrang Communications therefore denies all the allegations. 

 Four:  While believing in the rule of law and due process, we believe that the State has innumerable devices at its disposal to simply throttle dissent, intimidate and through these crass techniques try to ensure coercive compliance. An FIR, in our view malicious and motivated, was lodged over 18 months ago at the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad that simply speaks of funds collected for the Gulberg Memorial. This amounts to a princely sum of Rs. 4.6 lakhs still lying unutilised due to our inability to take this dream project forward. To date, despite over 24,000 pages of documentary evidence being filed, there is no charge sheet. All that the state of Gujarat appears to be interested in is humiliation and vilification in the public domain and custodial detention (a euphemism for torture).

The MHA began with examining the records of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Sabrang Trust, now they are training their guns on Sabrang Communications. Ours is a typical, classic case of the State and its organs being used as an outlet for motivated vendetta of the vilest kind. Now that our Bail Application is due to be heard in July 2015, all sorts of diversionary tactics are being used. It would seem that this government has a clear-cut agenda which it is following.

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