New Delhi: Journalist Rana Ayyub said Sunday that the FIR registered against her by Uttar Pradesh police, for alleged misappropriation of funds raised for relief work, was “malicious and baseless”, and that “the entire donation received through Ketto is accounted for”. The journalist also said that “not a single paisa has been misused”.
Ketto is an online platform for raising funds.
Speaking to ThePrint, Ayubb said, “I am being investigated by the Income Tax department. The investigation agencies have asked me for my documents, which I will provide them. I have full faith in the law of the land. This FIR is malicious, just to defame me, but I will fully cooperate with the investigation agencies through the probe.”
On 7 September, the Ghaziabad Police had registered an FIR against Ayyub, based on a complaint by a Hindu IT Cell co-founder, who accused her of illegally acquiring public money through campaigns on Ketto. The complainant, Vikas Sankrityayan, accused Ayyub of illegally acquiring money in the name of charity.
‘Complaint based on screenshots on social media posts’
Speaking to ThePrint, the complainant Vikas Sankrityayan said Sunday that he decided to file a case against Ayyub after he came across an email on social media, allegedly written by Ketto to its donors, claiming that they have been informed by “law enforcement agencies” that the funds raised by Ayyub’s campaign were “not utilised for the purpose for which they were raised”.
The email had been tweeted by many donors, claimed Sankrityayan.
“When I saw the email doing the rounds on social media, I decided to lodge an official complaint against Ayyub. Ketto has sent out the email to all its donors and it clearly says that the money has not been used for the purpose it was collected. Moreover, she took all this money in her personal account, which is a violation,” Sankrityayan alleged.
Sankritiyayan added that he has attached screenshots that he took from social media in his police complaint as “proof”.
According to the FIR, a copy of which is with ThePrint, the money had been raised under three campaigns —”funds for slum dwellers and farmers, relief work for Assam, Bihar and Maharashtra and help for Covid-19 impacted people in India”— between April and May 2020, June and September 2020 and May and June 2021, without any kind of “approval certificate, registration from the government which is required as per Foreign Contribution Regulation Act”.
The FIR has been registered under IPC sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 418 (cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to person whose interest offender is bound to protect), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), section 66D of the IT Act and section 4 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
Abhay Kumar, Circle Officer, Indirapuram, told ThePrint “We have registered an FIR based on the complaint that we received. We are investigating the matter and will take appropriate action.”
Ketto has not released any statement regarding the matter yet.
‘Have not violated any law’
In a statement released by Ayyub on Twitter Saturday night, the journalist claimed that she has been defamed, trolled and abused online because of these allegations, but she has not violated any law.
I shall continue to do my journalism. pic.twitter.com/ItBQFSNEuw
— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) September 11, 2021
“The Hindu IT Cell has lodged a malicious and baseless FIR against me in Uttar Pradesh, alleging that I have fraudulently taken donations on Ketto for Covid relief work. I have been defamed, trolled and abused online on the basis of this allegation. For the record, I wish to inform everyone that the entire donation received through Ketto is accounted for and not a single paisa has been misused. The receipt of donations did not violate any law,” the statement said.
Ayyub also said in the statement that she had paid a heavy amount of tax on the donations.
“I have paid a heavy amount of tax on the donations, as directed by the CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes), although I believe the donations ought not to have been taxed so that more money could be used for relief work,” the statement read.
“Such donations are exempt from taxes as per the policy and law of the land, and I am taking necessary steps in that regard with CBDT,” it added.
Ayyub further said that her accounts and the donations have both been scrutinized by the IT Department and a fair investigation will bring out the truth for all.
“Any amount of hate and propaganda will not stop me from pursuing my profession honestly, nor will I allow bullying tactics to prevent me from doing relief work when it is most needed,” she said in the statement.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)