New Delhi, July 30: The CBI has been quick to raid activist Teesta Setalvad's house and seek her "custodial interrogation" within a week of registering a case, but tardy in 16 cases involving NGOs referred to it by the Union home ministry.
Between 2012 and 2014, the Centre handed the investigative agency 24 cases relating to NGOs alleged to have violated the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). But it has yet to start a probe in 16 cases.
In the case of Teesta - a known critic of the Prime Minister - and her husband Javed Anand, the CBI has wasted little time. The couple have been charged with violating the FCRA for allegedly not seeking home ministry approval before accepting grants from the US-based Ford Foundation for their two NGOs.
An enquiry by The Telegraph has revealed that the CBI registered the FIR in the Teesta case on July 8, within a week of the home ministry handing it the probe. On July 14, it raided the activist's Mumbai home and office and sought her custodial interrogation before a trial court with an alacrity missing in the other 16 cases.
So, has Teesta's case been selectively picked for investigation? If yes, why?
Her NGOs, Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace, have been at the forefront of the civil society campaign against atrocities committed on minorities during the 2002 Gujarat riots when Narendra Modi was the chief minister.
According to the CBI, the couple have allegedly diverted Rs 1.8 crore from the Sabrang Trust to their company, Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd, which is not registered under FCRA. Both are directors of the company.
Teesta has alleged that she is a victim of "political vendetta" and that the CBI raided her Mumbai home and office despite her full cooperation.
Senior CBI officials have, however, denied that the agency has adopted a "pick-and-choose policy" in Teesta's case.
"The probe in the other 16 cases is still going on and action will be taken accordingly," an agency official said. "The agency is facing a shortage of investigators as many are busy with the high-profile Saradha and Vyapam cases. We probe cases on a priority basis."
He said chargesheets had been filed in nine of the 24 cases while the others were still under probe. In some cases, the agency has yet to record the statements of the people running the NGOs.
"It takes a lot of time as we have to examine a huge number of documents," he said.
Asked how the agency examined documents relating to Teesta's NGOs in record time and found FCRA violations, he refused comment.
A home ministry official said between 2012 and 2014 the CBI was asked to probe 24 cases of FCRA violations by NGOs. The ministry has referred 10 other such cases to respective state home departments.
A former CBI director, Joginder Singh, said the agency was always under the control of the ruling government.
"The ruling government always uses the agency to its own advantage. It's an open secret," he said, recalling the Supreme Court's 2013 observation that the CBI functioned like a "caged parrot" of its political master.