By Sushil Batra
New Delhi [India], April 4 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Monday permitted Journalist Rana Ayyub to travel abroad and said there is no cogent reason for presuming that she would not appear before the investigation agency and hence, as no case is made out for issuing the impugned LOC.
The Bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh on Monday said the impugned Lookout Circular (LOC) is accordingly liable to be set aside as being devoid of merits as well as for infringing the Human right of the Petitioner to travel abroad and to exercise her freedom of speech and expression. For the reasons discussed above, the impugned LOC is set aside and quashed.
However, a balance has to be struck qua the right of the investigation agency to investigate the instant matter as well as the fundamental right of the petitioner of movement and free speech, said Justice Chandra Dhari Singh.
The Court further added that it becomes evident that the LOC was issued in haste and despite the absence of any precondition necessitating such a measure. “A LOC is a coercive measure to make a person surrender and consequentially interferes with petitioner’s right of personal liberty and free movement. It is to be issued in cases where the accused is deliberately evading summons/arrest or where such person fails to appear in Court despite a Non-Bailable Warrant. In the instant case, there is no contradiction by the respondent to the submission of the petitioner that she has appeared on each and every date before the Investigating Agency when summoned,” the Court noted.
The Court, while passing the order, said the instant petition stands allowed in the above terms with the conditions that the petitioner shall intimate her travel dates and detailed itinerary to the investigation agency forthwith along with the address of the places that the petitioner shall be visiting.
“The petitioner shall deposit an FDR to the tune of Rs 1 lakh before the Enforcement Directorate in Mumbai. The petitioner shall not attempt to tamper with the evidence or influence the witnesses in any manner, the petitioner shall return to India on the date specified i.e. 11th April 2022; and the petitioner shall give an undertaking to appear before the Investigation Agency immediately on her return and on dates that might be fixed by the Investigation Agency for interrogation, if any, after the travel period,” the court said.
Ayyub has recently approached the Court to seek quashing of the Look Out Circular/Directions issued against her that has restrained her from travelling abroad.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, counsel who appeared for the petitioner, submitted that the petitioner/journalist is being persecuted for speaking truth to power and being critical of the incumbent establishment. Advocate Grover submitted that on March 29, when the petitioner arrived at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai, to board a flight to London to attend an event about the global problem of cyber-attacks on women journalists on 1st April in London, as well as to deliver a keynote speech in Rome on the status of journalism in India on April 5.
She further submitted that it is ED’s case that the petitioner had collected funds by crowdfunding for COVID relief work and has not done proper accounting. It was submitted that there is nothing on record to suggest that the petitioner was evading the legal process. Petitioner had been in regular communication with ED and had responded to each and every summons issued by the ED under the PMLA, that she had also joined the investigation and has been cooperating throughout.
The Court noted that ED vehemently opposed the instant petition and argued that the petitioner has been involved in a very serious offence and has misappropriated funds collected in the name of relief work. It was submitted that the petitioner had submitted fake bills and thus the money raised for relief work has been siphoned off.
ED also submitted that it had attached her assets worth Rs 1.77 crore in connection with alleged irregularities in the collection of charitable funds for COVID relief work. Further, it was submitted that the agency had issued summons to her earlier as well, but she did not respond and that it did not want her to leave the country because it would delay the probe and filing of chargesheet in court. (ANI)
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