Mumbai: Ruling out any threats to national security or public interest, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted anticipatory bail to Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand in a case pertaining to violations of the Foreign Contribution Regulations Act.
Justice Mridula Bhatkar, while granting bail, said their custodial interrogation was not required as the court did not find any possibility of the accused fleeing from justice.
Observing that prima facie the couple had violated the FCRA provisions, she directed them to cooperate with the investigating agencies and refrain from instigating any protests against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or indulge in any criminal acts.
Justice Bhatkar's ruling came in the anticipatory bail pleas filed by the duo following a case registered by the CBI accusing their company of receiving a foreign donation of Rs.1.80 crore without mandatory sanctions from the central government.
"Prima facie, this court holds there has been violation under FCRA. But where is the threat to the security, sovereignty and integrity of the nation or public interest," Justice Bhatkar said, asking the CBI to show this to the court.
While granting anticipatory bail, the court directed that if Setalvad-Anand are arrested, then they shall be released immediately on a surety of Rs.20,000.
The judge said that any citizen may carry out social activities which may have a different point of view which the government may not like.
Opposing the anticipatory bail plea by the couple, the CBI contended that the duo has committed an offence which amounted to a threat to national security and public interest, and hence their custodial interrogation was required.
Asked whether the duo had complied with the court's earlier order of July 24 granting them interim relief from arrest and asking them to appear before the CBI on four days for recording their statement, CBI counsel Anil Singh replied that they came to the CBI office but were not cooperating with the probe.
He said that they just came and gave vague answers, did not reveal where the money has gone, are not providing the trust's books of accounts, for which it needed their custodial interrogation.
Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy representing the couple pointed out that during its searches at their premises (Setalvad and Anand), the CBI had seized all original documents pertaining to the trust and the accounts.
He added that the amount received from foreign parties was not a donation but fees in return for services provided to it, for which tax was deducted at source, and accordingly it could not be considered under FCRA.
On July 8, the CBI had lodged a case against Setalvad and Anand alleging that their NGO Sabrang Communication and Publishing Pvt. Ltd received a foreign donation of $2.90 lakh violating FCRA provisions.