The Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday cancelled the registration of activist Teesta Setalvad's NGO Sabrang Trust under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), reported CNN News 18.
In its order, the Home Ministry said various irregularities were found in the Sabrang Trust during inspections, and that after careful examination of the NGO's response, its registration was cancelled.
Teesta and her husband Javed Anand work as chief functionaries of the trust.
"... In exercise of powers conferred by clauses (b), (c) and (d) of sub-section (1) of Section 14 of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010, the central government hereby cancels the permanent registration of Sabrang Trust with immediate effect," the order said.
According to the Home Ministry, Teesta and Anand are also working as directors, co-editors, printers and publishers in a company named Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt Limited (SCPPL) and publish a magazine called Communalism Combat.
The home ministry has claimed that Sabrang Trust has spent an amount of Rs 50 lakh for SCPPL, violating the mandate of the FCRA. By this action, the NGO has not only unauthorisedly utilised the foreign contribution for the purposes of an unregistered entity but also utilised that amount for activities totally prohibited by FCRA, it said.
The order said the NGO has transferred an amount of Rs 2.46 lakh from its foreign contribution designated account to Sabrang Trust domestic account, thus mixing domestic and foreign funds and violating the rules. Sabrang Trust has made direct payments of approximately Rs 12 lakh from FCRA designated account to Citi Bank and Union Bank of India on account of credit cards belonging to Teesta and Anand respectively.
"Sabrang Trust spent foreign funds to buy sanitary napkins and wet wipes for Teesta Setalvad and earbuds for her husband Javed Anand," The Times of India quoted from a press statement issued by the MHA.
The statement further said that the Sabrang Trust paid credit card bills of Teesta and husband Javed Anand.
According Firstpost, the government had earlier ordered a CBI probe into the transfer of funds by US-based Ford Foundation to SCPPL and even froze a bank account of the firm on 26 June, 2015.
SCPPL was allegedly in violation of rules of Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) in accepting a donation of $2.9 lakh from Ford Foundation without getting clearance of the Home Ministry.
According to the rules, an organisation or a private firm can accept donations from overseas only after it is registered under FCRA.
The Gujarat government had earlier asked the Home Ministry to take action against Ford Foundation, alleging that the US-based organisation was "interfering in internal affairs" of the country and also "abetting communal disharmony" through an NGO run by Setalvad.
The home ministry headed by Rajnath Singh has cracked down on a number of NGOs which have got foreign funding in the past couple of years, but controversy and criticism have marred many of his ministry's decisions, reported Firstpost.
The government in all cancelled the foreign funding licences of nearly 9,000 charities last year.
The Prime Minister has criticised what he calls "five-star activists" and a government intelligence report in 2014 reportedly said they were working with foreign powers to undermine India's economic growth.
Teesta has pursued the cases of post-Godhra riots victims in Gujarat when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of the state. Another NGO run by Teesta and Anand -- Citizens for Justice and Peace -- has already been put under prior permission category, thus making it mandatory for the organisation to take permission from the Home Ministry before accepting or utilising any foreign contribution.
With inputs from PTI