NEW DELHI: On Tuesday, May 23, a Special Sessions Court of Ahmedabad denied the Anticipatory Bail Application (ABA) of Teesta Setalvad, the Citizens of Justice and Peace (CJP) Secretary and her partner Javed Anand. “There has been relentless hounding every month, we are faced with one case or another and this is obviously got a political agenda,” Setalvad told The Citizen.

The decision came in the wake of an ongoing suit regarding the alleged embezzlement of funds by Setalvad and Anand in 2010. The two prominent functionaries of the CJP were accused of the crime by Raees Khan who was a former employee of the organization.

Speaking to The Citizen, Setalvad expressed her dismay with the denial of ABA, saying “It is a very disappointing order because the law on anticipatory bail is very clear. If you’re cooperating with an investigation then there is no reason to not demand bail. It is a norm and well established standard. So we are disappointed and shocked.”

The allegations set forward by the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) is that the Sabrang Organisation which is owned by the couple had received Rs. 1.4 crore under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan policy of the Ministry of Human Resources and Development. Part of the funds, according to the DCB, were then transferred to their personal accounts and used for ‘personal and political causes’ rather than educational purposes for which the money was intended.

Previously, the Supreme Court had granted them temporary relief by extending their interim protection from arrest and transit anticipatory bail. The apex court had said that the duo would not be arrested till May 31, but they were required to approach ‘the competent court in the state’ which would decide the case on merits.

The DCB had claimed in its submission that the probe was at a sensitive stage and the accused were capable of tampering the evidence.

However, in a statement by her organization, the CJP, has remarked, “The only evidence of alleged embezzlement is in the bank accounts. If the accounts in question are frozen, how exactly can Setalvad tamper with evidence? This is just a ploy to get police custody.”

Discussing the case and its unusual timing, Setalvad told The Citizen, “What is necessary is to understand the history of the case. The fact remains that this case was brought up because they got to know I was going abroad. The FIR was filed in March. Raees Khan sent this to the Crime Branch in November and before this, he tried to approach the CBI and the MHRD. Neither did anything. Then he went to the Crime Branch.”

The CJP’s official statement mentions that the entire case was ‘nothing short of a coercive method to prevent Setalvad from going on a long planned trip for human rights lectures abroad.’

Speaking about the Gujarat Police and its involvement, she stated “What needs to be stretched is that the offense took place 7 years ago in Mumbai, Maharashtra. We completely deny the allegations, but the Gujarat Police has no jurisdiction and now they have a political agenda. We have been facing this since 2014, we had Gujarat Police against us, the CBI raiding our homes. We have been particularly special targets since this administration came to power.”

Since 2002, Setalvad and her husband, Anand, have been on the receiving end of many allegations that have ranged from kidnapping, perjury and now embezzlement. The implication that has been made is that they have been targeted for attempting to uncover the truths of the Gujarat riots. The CJP has stated on its site “Setalvad and Anand, both office bearers of CJP, have been targeted multiple times since 2014. Setalvad has had to seek anticipatory bail to avoid custodial torture nine times! This has not stopped them from pursuing a passionate and rigorous human rights agenda. CJP will continue to provide legal aid to the survivors of the Gujarat 2002 genocide. In fact, CJP is also working with Adivasis and Forest workers in Sonbhadra and Orissa to get false cases against them quashed.”

On what the days to come would entail, Setalvad stated “We have appealed to the High Court today and are hoping to get relief. This will happen either Friday or Monday.” She concluded, “Friends are calling for a peaceful protest. There has been relentless hounding every month, we are faced with one case or another and this is obviously got a political agenda.”