The Bombay high court on Friday granted protection from arrest for two weeks to activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband, hours after a lower court denied them anticipatory bail amid accusations that their NGO received funds from the United States-based Ford Foundation without government authorisation.
Setalvad, a long-time critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said she was being persecuted by the government for her campaign against the Gujarat riots of 2002 when the BJP leader was chief minister.
"I am shocked and aggrieved by the verdict as this is a petty offence. My sympathisers feel that this is an attempt (by the government) to intimidate and possibly eliminate us by the powers (sic),” she said after the sessions court rejected her bail application.
The couple’s lawyers approached the high court anticipating arrest for custodial interrogation sought by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The agency registered a case against Setalvad and her husband, Javed Anand, on July 8 and raided their home and offices a week later.
A bank account of the NGO, Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd located in Mumbai, was frozen on the instructions of the home ministry. Sources said documents recovered by the agency appeared to support its allegations.
The activist recently said she was cooperating with the CBI and her organisation’s arrangement with the Ford Foundation was permitted under law, while she panned the investigating agency for calling her a “national threat”.
Setalvad has also been accused by Gujarat police of using funds meant for victims of the Gujarat riots on purchasing wine and expensive mobile phones, apart from tampering with evidence.