CHENNAI: Former chairperson of Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women V Vasanthi Devi has asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to intervene in the Supreme Court against CBI’s plea of quashing the anticipatory bail granted to rights activists Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand by the Bombay high court last month.
In a letter despatched to the NHRC joint registrar A K Parashar, Vasanthi Devi said the matter being investigated by the CBI did not require custodial interrogation of the couple whose organization, the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CPJ), has been in the forefront of defending the legal, constitutional and human rights of the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Parashar is also designated as the National Focal Point – Human Rights Defenders of the NHRC.
CBI move is an attempt to intensify the harassment of these human rights defenders to prevent them to carry out their work. Teesta and Javed Anand’s efforts before the Supreme Court and other courts could obtain 117 convictions so far in the riots case, she pointed out.
She said that CBI had sought cancellation of their anticipatory bail claiming that the high court had erred in giving relief after “prima facie” finding that Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) provisions were violated, as their company, Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt Ltd (SCPPL), had received Rs. 1.8 crore from US-based Ford Foundation without mandatory approval from the Centre.
However, it should be noted that while granting them anticipatory bail in August, the Bombay high court observed that their custodial interrogation was not necessary as the case was based on documentary evidence of accounts and they were not likely to flee from justice, she said.
The CBI has sought custodial interrogation of both, charging them with failing to cooperate in the probe in a case of alleged FCRA violation by misusing foreign funds received by them and posing a threat to communal harmony. The allegations are made by the CBI despite both Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand totally cooperating with the investigation.
It is necessary to mention here that the accounts of Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace has already been inspected by the investigators of CBI and Teesta Setalvad and her organizations have submitted over 25,000 pages of documentation to the agency answering every query about funding.
She contended that Section 12(b) of the Protection of Human Rights Act (1993) empowers the NHRC to intervene in any proceedings involving any allegation of violation of human rights pending before a court, with the approval of such court. The Commission should also Intervene using Section 18(b) of the Protection of Human Rights Act (1993), which empowers it to approach the Supreme Court, in this case appeal and represent itself through an eminent lawyer on behalf of human rights defenders Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand.
Vasanthi Devi recalled the recommendation on the supportive role by the NHRC by the previous UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs, Margaret Sekaggya after her visit to India in 2011. Sekaggya had proposed that the focal point should be a member of the Commission with a human rights defender background to fully understand the challenges faced by defenders.
A fast-track procedure for defenders within the National Human Rights Commission and State Human Rights Commissions should be considered.