Aone-time associate of social activist Teesta Setalvad has moved an application in the Supreme Court seeking withdrawal of Justice Aftab Alam from Gujarat riots-related cases. In his petition, Rais Khan Pathan alleged link between Setalvad’s NGO and the daughter of Justice Alam.
Setalvad’s NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) is pursuing the cause of justice for riot victims in the apex court. Justice Alam’s daughter Shahrukh runs an NGO by the name, Patna Collective, which is linked to a Netherlands-based NGO, HIVOS. Incidentally, HIVOS funds both Teesta Setalvad and her NGO.
HIVOS, along with Kosmopolis Institute of Netherlands, co-organised a series of papers published in 2010 by “The Promoting Pluralism Knowledge Programme” (PPKP). One paper, “The Idea of Secularism and Supreme Court of India” was authored by Justice Alam. The said paper was presented by the judge in London in October 2009.
Yet another NGO, which is quoted by Khan as a coordinator of the Promoting Pluralism Knowledge Programme and also the London event, is the Centre for Study of Culture and Society (CSCS), Bangalore. Interestingly, the Centre for Study of Culture and Society had coordinated with PPKP working paper No 5 presented by Justice Alam.
This NGO, the application suggested, is also jointly working with HIVOS on a web portal ‘Pluralism.in’ which has as its core team member the daughter of the judge in question. This site has a
dedicated section on “Gujarat archives” having a collection of 60 articles of which one is
written by Sabrang Communications and Publishing Private Limited, Mumbai, a company run by Teesta Setalvad.
Incidentally, Shahrukh Alam is on the payroll of Centre for Study of Culture and Society as a research fellow under the PPKP. Between July 2008 and March 2010, she received Rs4,45,000 from CSCS as salary, and Rs11,48,680 for her NGO, the application stated.
CSCS has stated on record that these payments were paid from the foreign grants/contributions received from HIVOS and Kosmopolis Institute of Netherlands, the main fund giver and organiser of Pluralism Working Papers 5, 6, and 7. But no funds can be paid to NGO Patna Collective as in the records of Ministry of Finance, it is unregistered and that is why it cannot receive foreign funds under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010. This is the reason why the application raises doubt that the money meant for Patna Collective and Shahrukh Alam could be routed through CSCS.
HIVOS is also an active donor to Teesta’s NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace and to her lawyer Mihir Desai. “HIVOS made direct payments of Euro 10,000 (approx Rs7 lakh) to Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) in November 2009. Payment of 10,000 Euros got credited in the accountof CJP on November 23, 2009.” This was for her budget to cover expenses incurred on organising meetings and workshops on Gujarat riots cases, including travel expenses.
In addition, Teesta’s lawyer received a direct fund of Rs45,000 and Rs75000 in November 2009. The second component amounting to 1,150 Euros was received from HIVOS into the account
of CSCS on November 24, 2009. This was the only payment made by HIVOS to
CSCS in 2009.
The applicant, Rais Khan, demanded that Justice Alam must withdraw from hearing the case in the “interest of justice” and “dignity of the institution” as the above facts and circumstances created a “reasonable likelihood of bias”.
“The proximate financial and other links of Ms Shahrukh Alam with institutions, bodies, NGOs and individuals related to the Gujarat riots and various litigations ensuing from there, by their very nature require
that Justice Aftab Alam (should) decline to adjudicate the present case,” the
application stated, demanding that the same be heard by a bench of which Justice Alam was not a member.