In our post of the 11th of June we reported the story of the first FIR filed against the Kautilya Society members.
Fearing that the Varanasi authorities would use the non-bailable sections quoted in the FIR to prevent me from appearing in the hearings of the Allahabad High Court hearing (or at least be sufficiently harassed to withdraw the PIL from the High Court) I reported the whole issue to the Varanasi Superintendent of Police and asked them to verify if there was any improper use of power by the VDA against her or the Kautilya Society.
Finally some response did come from the Varanasi Superintendent of Police. But it was not a response to the report of the Kautilya Society on misuse of power by VDA officers. And what was it? Another FIR!
“Punishment for cheating by personation”
The second FIR was lodged on the direct and explicit instructions of Mr. Ajay Kumar Mishra, Senior Superintendent of Varanasi Police, on indication by the Varanasi Divisional Commissioner, Mr. Chanchal Tiwari. It charged all 9 founders of Kautilya Society of non-bailable criminal offences like “cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property (IPC 420), forgery of valuable security (IPC 467),” etc. The allegations that have been made do not give specific instances of irregularities but make general accusations that the KS has many foreign members and that the KS receives funds from foreigners. Both facts are true, but neither of them is an offence. All KS activities are implemented as per its bylaws and as per the rules and regulations of the country.
The Times of India, in its article reported my statement, “since the filing of PIL we are being harassed in similar style as not only the local authorities but the entire machinery has been exposed on the issue of illegal construction in the prohibited zone. But we are prepared for it and under no circumstances will we withdraw the PIL” As in the case of the other FIR, Varanasi newspapers that were previously supporting the KS against the inefficient local administration have generally given ample resonance to the lodged FIRs without counter-checking the issue with the KS.
The KS is contesting the charges and believes that it is a blatant case of malicious institutional harassment and misuse of government power.
The main accusation is that Kautilya Society has foreign members in its Managing Committee. Sure, it is an NGO where foreigners are among its founding members as well as its current ordinary members. All foreigners who become members and sometimes also reside in the Kautilya Society premises are duly reported to the Local Police Office. The names and details of the Managing Committee members and the organisational activities have always been reported to the Registrar of Societies that has approved and renewed the official status of the organisation. The KS receives donations in Indian rupees from both Indian and Foreign members who avail of its services within the society premises and this is an activity within the bye laws of the Society, it is permitted under the FCRA (Foreign Currency Regulation Act 2010, Clause 2, Explanation 3) and it is regularly assessed and reported to the Income Tax Authorities through audited accounts.
In a written reply to the District Authorities, the KS stated that:
- “We have always declared the organizational activities and regularly audited and declared the financial transactions to concerned offices. In fact, our Society was accorded renewal in 2008 on the basis of our regular functioning;
- The Society has foreign members in accordance with its byelaws and the Memorandum of Association that is in accordance with the Indian Society Registration Act 1860 that permits foreigners to subscribe to the Memorandum of Association of a Society. The names and details of the members of Kautilya Society Managing Committee has always been shared with the concerned offices.
- The names and details of all foreign members who consult our study and resource centre, visit, work with us or stay in our premises have always been declared to the Local Foreign Registration Office.
- Our funds are always audited and submitted to the concerned offices. In a recent scrutiny conducted by the Income Tax Department of the Govt. of India, our financial details and accountancy were considered as per laws and clear.
- Not only are our activities and documents regular but they have regularly been submitted to concerned authorities and received official approvals.
Also in this very FIR, the 9 founder members are accused, in a confused manner, of “forgery” because one of the members, Vrinda Dar, transferred part of her property to another member Pietro Cocco as an individual; a transfer that was done legally and registered with the property registration office as per the FEMA rules and regulations and with approval from Income Tax Authorities.”
When the KS management went to meet the Varanasi District Magistrate to object about the FIR, he was apologetic, saying that an FIR is not malicious and that it is just a necessary step taken by the Varanasi police after receiving many complaints from local people (on Facebook!). Perhaps it is true. But one can surely suspect malice because non-bailable charges in the FIR have been made on a very well known organization that has been a partner of the District Authorities for many years and with which, in the past five years, there has been a fierce, but until now honest, litigation in the Allahabad High Court.
And what is particularly inappropriate is the accusation of “Forgery for purpose of cheating” (469 of IPC) and “using as genuine a forged document” (471) concerning the authorisation by Indian authorities to carry out civil society activities in Varanasi, when in fact the authorisations have been given in writing by the Indian authorities themselves.
I thinks that both FIRs are basically forms of harassment and mental torture meant to discourage her from proceeding with the PIL. But she wants to continue and she wants the Varanasi people to be informed about what is happening. She has shared a video interview on ⇒ the TVP channel.
On the facebook page of the Kautilya Society, she sent an appeal to all members and friends to share her message, and this article, as widely as possible so that she is not left alone in bearing harassment in return for demanding legality in Varanasi; and for trying to preserve as much as possible of the Varanasi heritage so that future generations can better understand the values of the Indian traditional culture.
- “Responsible Development” — Wikibooks, November 3, 2013
- “Another society in trouble for violating laws” — The Times of India, October 14, 2013
- “What is Kautilya Society” — Banaras Biradari, October 23, 2013
- “Heritage protection in Varanasi – defending legality, promoting participation. The Kautilya Society story” — TVP Channel, October 27, 2013
- “Order PIL ( No. – 31229 of 2005” — Allahabad High Court, July 29, 2013
- “VDA overdoes its duty to follow Allahabad High Court instructions asking to strengthen surveillance against illegal constructions in Varanasi” — Banarasi Biradari, June 11, 2013
- “Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) officers are misusing their official power to harass citizens” — Kautilya Society, June 11, 2013.
- “The Sections of the Penal Code mentioned on the FIR do not correspond at all to any of the allegations made in the FIR.” — Kautilya Society,
- “FIR against Kautilya society” — The Times of India, June 8, 2013
- “Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) officers are misusing their official power to harass citizens” — Kautilya Society, June 8, 2013.
- “Kautilya Society, Varanasi:a boon or a menace?” — Espirito Kashi, October 26, 2013
The reasons why I believe both the FIRs are malicious:
- the Government Authorities say that they have acted on the basis of complaints they received from the public, but then they filed criminal charges against me before even contacting me or requesting me for clarifications on issues for which they are receiving such complaints. This is not the standard way of dealing with complaints. What was their haste in filing an FIR before asking questions?
- In both the FIRs, I am accused of infringing norms of the Indian Penal Code that are not bailable (i.e. these sections of the Indian Penal Code that permit the police to arrest me without bail) but these are inconsistent with the allegations made in the FIRs. Even if we were accused of wrongdoings, these would come under the civil law, not under the Penal Code. Penal Code sections have been quoted in the FIRs without linking the alleged actions with the Indian Penal Code norms.
- I am accused of carrying out illegal civil society related activities, while these have been regularly reported to the concerned Indian Authorities and for which I have received, in writing, required permissions and certifications. In the FIRs, I am accused by Authorities of forging documents that in fact are regular certifications provided by the competent authorities.