A panel instituted by the Union ministry of human resource development has said that there is compelling evidence to book activist Teesta Setalvad under sections 153-A and 153-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), both pertaining to hate speeches.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the panel found Setalvad culpable for "hatred-filled, disharmony-spreading, ill-will generating, enmity-creating explosive writings".
The report further states, "The committee has also said that officials who were in the HRD ministry when the UPA was in power "can't escape accountability, responsibility and culpability" because Rs 1.39 crore was released as grant to Sabrang Trust though it was not eligible for it."
It adds that if the committee's recommendations are accepted by the Centre, the officials along with Setalvad can face action.
This committee, which has had been formed by Smriti Irani in 2015 during her tenure as the HRD minister, has submitted its report to the present minister Prakash Javadekar. The minister told IE that he is yet to look at the report, hence, is undecided about the future course of action.
In June this year, the government cancelled the FCRA licence of Sabrang Trust, an NGO run by Setalvad and her husband. In January this year, the Supreme Court asked Setalvad and her husband to cooperate with the investigators in two criminal cases lodged against them. The apex court also said that on resisting probe, Setalvad may have to face arrest.
A report on India Today, from July 2015, says, "Teesta and Anand have been accused by the Gujarat government of embezzling funds meant for the victims of the 2002 riots. Teesta, has repeatedly denied the allegations, accusing the Centre and the BJP-run Gujarat government of vendetta for her work with the victims of the 2002 riots." The Gujarat Police had alleged fraud of 'colossal' proportions against Setalvad.
In the same month, the Gujarat government had told the Supreme Court that Setalvad and her husband had embezzled funds for 'wine and other luxuries'. Following this, the CBI had lodged a case against her and searched her home and publishing house premises in Mumbai. They also called the couple, "a threat to national security".
Setalvad is a prominent critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. Among other activities, Setalvad has been backing Zakia Jafri in her long legal battle against the Gujarat government and the alleged murderers of her husband, Ehsan Jafri, a Congress MP. Ehsan Jafri was killed by a mob in Ahmedabad during the 2002 riots, which left several Muslims dead in Gujarat.
The cases of fraud and the investigations against Setalvad were launched just a few days ahead of a hearing in the Zakia Jafri case. Setalvad alleged that the government apparatus was trying to intimidate her and avenge the embarrassment she has caused them.