Delhi court orders CBI to withdraw look out circular against Aakar Patel

The former chief of Amnesty International India was stopped at the Bengaluru airport stating that a Look Out Circular was issued against him by the CBI.
Aakar Patel
Aakar Patel
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A Delhi court, on Thursday, April 7, issued orders to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to withdraw the Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against former chief of Amnesty International India Aakar Patel in a case of alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act. He was stopped at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport, on Wednesday, while he was about to catch a flight to Boston in the United States of America. The court also issued orders to the CBI to file a compliance report by 4 pm on Friday, April 8.

The court said a "written apology" from the Director of the CBI on behalf of the agency acknowledging the lapse on the part of his subordinate to Patel would help uphold the trust and confidence of the public in the premier institution. The court noted that apart from the monetary loss, the applicant had suffered mental harassment as he was not allowed to visit the event that was planned at the scheduled time.

"The applicant can approach the court or other forum for monetary compensation. This court is of the considered opinion that in this case, a written apology from the head of the CBI i.e. Director, CBI acknowledging the lapse on the part of his subordinate, to the applicant would go a long way in not only healing the wounds of the applicant but also upholding the trust and confidence of the public in the premier institution," the judge said. The court noted that Patel had joined the probe once and that there was no other process or warrant issued against him for his appearance. The judge said LOC is a deliberate act of the investigating agency to put restriction on the valuable rights of the accused.

A look out circular is issued by authorities to ensure an individual who is named in a case or is wanted by law enforcement agencies does not leave the country. Earlier in the day, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pawan Kumar reserved the order after hearing arguments from the lawyers appearing for Patel and the CBI.

Stating that Patel was highly influential, the CBI argued that there was a likelihood of Patel fleeing from justice if he was allowed to leave the country. “We are not demanding arrest. We are saying he should not cross the country,” the agency said. The court noted the CBI submission that the investigation was continuing since 2021, and said if Patel was a flight risk, he would have been arrested. He could have ran away during the investigation also then, the court said.

Patel's counsel opposed the CBI's contention, claiming that citizens rights are being railroaded by the agency. “It is time that we send a suitable reply to law enforcement agencies and society,” he told the court. Patel's application further sought the court's permission to visit the US to take up his foreign assignment and lecture series organised by various universities till May 30. The application claimed that the action was taken despite an order by a Gujarat court granting him permission to travel abroad.

Speaking to PTI, CBI sources on Wednesday said that the LOC was issued on the basis of a chargesheet filed by the agency in a special CBI court in Delhi on December 31, 2021 for the alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.

Speaking to TNM earlier on Wednesday, Aakar said that he was stopped by immigration officials even though he had a court order releasing his passport specifically for this trip. “I was told at the Bengaluru airport that there was a look out circular in my name. I showed them the court order and told them that my passport had been impounded and released specifically for this trip. They said that this was a different case, it was a CBI notice. I called the person incharge at the CBI,” Aakar told TNM. Aakar was informed that the lookout circular was in connection with the case filed by CBI against Amnesty India.

Aakar’s passport had earlier been impounded in connection with a case filed against him by a BJP MLA in Surat but he got the passport back from the court for this trip. Aakar was scheduled to fly to the USA to deliver lectures in three universities — Michigan University, Berkley University and New York University.

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