Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand assert they are aware of the provisions of the laws of the land and have, in fact, whenever legally necessary applied for permission from the MHA for receipt of foreign awards etc. We at Hillele.org deconstruct CBI charges against them in the FCRA case.
One: Section 3 of FCRA, 2010 bars certain ‘persons’ (political parties and its office bearers, government servants, 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., a for-profit company, which published the monthly magazine, ‘Communalism Combat’ signed Consultancy Agreements 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 installment 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 Communications & Pub Pvt Ltd has kept records and provided copies of the same to the FCRA during the inspection visit of FCRA team in Mumbai on June 9 and 10, 2015, Additional documents as required were also posted to FCRA department. Copies of the supposedly “incriminating documents” seized by the CBI were nothing but the originals of the Consultancy Agreements, Activities and Financial Reports etc., photocopies of which had earlier been provided by SCPPL to the FCRA’s inspection team in June 2015.
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 in India 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:- Communalism Combat the monthly publication published by Sabrang Communications since August 1993 received the Prince Claus International Award for Exceptional Initiative in the field of Journalism and Development in December, 2000. In order to receive the said award amount, SCPPL applied to MHA seeking permission to receive the award money and the same was granted by MHA on April 10, 2001 under Section 31 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976.
In 2003, Teesta Setalvad was awarded the ‘Nuremberg International Human Rights Award’. The then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan sent a special message for the occasion in appreciation of Teesta Setalvad’s efforts. She also received the Prakash Kaphley Award in 2003. Once again the award money in both these cases was accepted after MHA’s written permission.