activist arrested

As Supreme Court stays Setalvad's arrest, here is her response to Gujarat police's charges

The Gujarat police have alleged that Setalvad used organisation funds for wining and dining. She responds.

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the arrest of activist Teesta Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand and three other office bearers of the Gulberg Society Museum Trust, hours after the Gujarat High Court rejected their anticipatory bail plea. The Supreme Court will now make its final decision on their plea on Friday.

According to reports, officers of the Gujarat Crime Branch had stationed themselves outside Setalvad's Mumbai home soon after the High Court order.

The five have been accused of embezzling funds raised to build a museum to riot victims in Ahmedabad's Gulberg Society, where 69 people were killed during the Gujarat riots of 2002. The high court's decision came a year after a sessions court in Ahmedabad also rejected their anticipatory bail petition.

Last year, investigated the details of the case. Here are some of the charges that the Gujarat Police levelled against them in more recent affidavits, with Setalvad's responses to them.

Ahmedabad Police: Setalvad and Anand transferred Rs 14.2 lakhs from the bank account of their NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace, to clear their credit card expenses across five years between August 2009 and March 2014. The credit cards were used to buy wine, movie tickets and grocery items, thus showing that they used donor money meant for Gujarat riot victims for personal amusement.

Setalvad and Anand:  Since the organisations that Setalvad and Anand work for do not have their own credit cards, the activists use their personal cards to book air and train tickets for work-related travel. This has been done with the consent of the trustees and auditors of the organisation. These work-related expenses were reimbursed after verifying them.

They have also used their personal credit cards to buy wine, books, shoes, medicines, suitcases, haircuts and restaurant meals, "paid from their independent personal incomes", Setalvad said. However, the Gujarat police "have deliberately manipulated credit card details from the personal accounts of both...[to claim that these were] expenses incurred by them from public money".

She also noted, “Since we live in the State of Maharashtra, and not Gujarat, there is nothing shocking on expenses on wine purchases, grocery, etc” paid for from their personal salaries. Gujarat is the only Indian state with prohibition.

The Rs 14.2 lakhs spread across a period of almost five years works out to an average of Rs 25,000 per month. Given that their work requires them to travel frequently between Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and New Delhi, this is a reasonable figure.

Ahmedabad Police: Lakhs of rupees were transferred from the NGO's account to the personal accounts of Setalvad and Anand and even their daughter Tamara, for several years.

Setalvad and Anand:  It's their monthly salary, Rs 48,000 each. Their daughter  received Rs 7,500 per month for her work in documenting and disseminating information.

Ahmedabad Police: They run several institutions from the same office but show different office expenses for each institution.

Setalvad and Anand: The offices of Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace and one more organisation operated from the same premises. The three organisations had three different and separate office spaces within the same area, different office equipments and staff, "both administrative and technical/project staff”. Hence the separate office expenses.

Ahmedabad Police: Setalvad has not submitted any corroboratory documents to the court along with her affidavit, and that her affidavits were mere diversionary tactics. Setalvad and Anand did not cooperate with the investigation and their anticipatory bail plea should be rejected so they could be interrogated in custody.

Setalvad and Anand: We've given the police all the documents they asked for.

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