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Lens on top MHA official over clean chit to Zakir Naik's NGO

Author: Bharti Jain, TNN
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 26, 2016
URL:   http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Lens-on-top-MHA-official-over-clean-chit-to-Zakir-Naiks-NGO/articleshow/54515330.cms

After suspending four officers over renewal of the foreign funding licence of controversial preacher Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), the home ministry is now examining the role of an assistant director-level officer in giving a clean chit to the NGO last year based on inspection of its accounts in 2014.

Though the clean chit did not pass muster at the higher levels - with the then deputy secretary of home ministry's FCRA monitoring unit seeking discussion on it - the circumstances under which the all-clear was proposed may be inquired into. Also likely to be scrutinised is the assistant director's observation that the complaint alleging FCRA violations by IRF was made "just out of motive to teach a lesson to Dr Zakir Naik".

The FCRA unit had inspected IRF's accounts between June 2 and June 6, 2014. Thirty "adverse" observations were recorded, to which IRF replied. Among the observations was a Rs 50 lakh donation from its FCRA account to Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) on June 7, 2011.

The inspection report dated March 19, 2015, and signed by the assistant director sought closure of the case, noting that Naik "is a preacher of Islam and due to his interpretation of Holy Quran and holy books of other religions, many groups have raised voice against him".

Submitting that inquiries had failed to link IRF with al-Qaida, Taliban, Mumbai bombings or terror attacks, the report said "it appears the complaint has been made just out of motive to teach a lesson to Dr Zakir Naik".

Interestingly, the file proposing clean chit gathered dust till the Dhaka terror attack in July this year. It was not put up for discussion by the under-secretary despite instructions from the deputy secretary. A home ministry source said that when the inspection report was taken up to scrutinise Naik's dealings, officers were shocked to see how the 30 adverse observations had been dismissed.

"It appears the assistant director, in his conclusion, reiterated the clarifications offered by IRF verbatim," an officer said. TOI has learnt that home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi found it a valid ground for suspension of then joint secretary (foreigners) G K Dwivedi. "The joint secretary was expected to periodically review pending files relating to inspection of NGOs. But this was not done," the officer said.
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