Gujarat moves SC against Setalvad, husband’s interim bail

New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) The Gujarat government on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court seeking cancellation of interim bail to social activists Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand.

The government’s latest move against the couple came for alleged non-cooperation with police in the investigation of alleged misuse of funds collected by NGO Sabrang Trust to set up a museum at Gulbarga Society.

On February 19, the apex court restrained Gujarat Police from arresting activist Setalvad and her husband in connection with the alleged misuse of Sabrang Trust funds.

The restrain order was extended on March 19 when the apex court referred to a larger bench the question if the personal liberty and requirement of effective investigation, including custodial interrogation, leave scope for an anticipatory bail.

Seeking cancellation of the interim bail granted to Setalvad and Anand, the Gujarat government has contended that Setalvad and Anand needed to be subjected to custodial interrogation as their responses to queries by the state police were “stock and evasive”.

The affidavit, filed by Gujarat cyber crime cell’s Assistant Commissioner of Police K.N.Patel, says there are several areas where investigation into the alleged misuse of funds collected in the name of riot victims and to set up a museum needs to be carried out.

Seeking rejection of the couple’s anticipatory bail application, Gujarat Police said “investigating agency be permitted the discretion to arrest them and take them into custody for interrogation so that full extent of petitioner’s crimes against charity could be unearthed and a comprehensive chargesheet filed.”

Gujarat Police have alleged that their investigation points to “perpetration of colossal fraud” by Setalvad and her husband Anand “aided and abetted” by others to collect funds to the tune of Rs.6 to 7 crore in the “name of riot victims by a massive fund collection drive from 2007-2014 through advertisements in the magazine” owned by them and also through the “conduct of musical and artistic events”.

Police have contended that Setalvad and Anand are yet to furnish the complete list of donors and bank accounts of the Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace.

They say Setalvad and Anand allegedly adopted “diverse means both audaciously and by blatant and subtle camouflage dishonestly appropriated and/or converted to their own use, funds meant for riot victims and other charitable purposes”.

They contended that “a very miniscule amount was disbursed directly to the victims on whose name petitioners (Setalvad and Javed Anand) were collecting the funds”.

Contending that “excessive and unreasonably high payments” were made to Setalvad and Anand, the Gujarat Police have told the apex court “in addition to disproportionately high administration expenses significant sums were spent on the air travel”.

Alleging that funds spent on Setalvad and Anand, which were of “purely personal nature” were shown to have been spent towards the objective of the trusts, police said that payments were made to Sabrang Communication Pvt. Ltd. on the pretext of administrative expenses.

Setalvad has been accused of misuse of funds collected by Sabrang Trust for setting up a museum in Gulberg Society that witnessed carnage during 2002 Gujarat riots.

Ferozkhan Saeedkhan Pathan filed a complaint with Gujarat Police alleging that Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace, managed by trustees Setalvad and her husband, collected funds to set up a museum at Gulberg Society.

They allegedly asked the residents not to sell their property in the society with the assurance that the trustees would arrange funds for the same, the complaint added.

Pathan alleged that Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace neither built the museum as promised nor spent the amount for Gulberg Society members’ benefit. Also, they did not fulfil the assurance given to the victims as regards the sale of their properties, but expended funds on themselves.

Following the complaint the offences were registered under Sections 420 (cheating), 406 (criminal breach of trust), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 120B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 72(A) of the Information and Technology Act, 2000, providing for penalty for breach of confidentiality and privacy.

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