Says circular is “devoid of merits” and against freedom of speech
New Delhi, April 4 (Delhi Crown): The Delhi High Court on Monday quashed the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) Look Out Circular (LOC) against journalist Rana Ayyub on the ground of it being “devoid of merits”, as well as for infringing her human right to travel abroad and freedom of speech & expression.
The Mumbai-based lady journalist was stopped at the Mumbai International Airport on Tuesday from flying to London as she is an accused in an alleged money laundering case being investigated by the ED.
According to Ayyub, she received the ED summons “very curiously” only after she was stopped at Mumbai airport. She was allegedly stopped just before she could board the flight to London, where she was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech on Indian democracy at a journalism festival.
Immediately after the Court Order, Rana Ayyub tweeted – “Big shout out to one of the best lawyers in the country, Vrinda Grover and her team Soutik Banerjee, Devika Tulsiani for helping me fight the good fight with just facts and ethics as our defence. Inshallah we will fight this till the very end with just the TRUTH.”
Justice Chandra Dhari Singh observed that the LOC was issued “in haste”, and despite the absence of any precondition necessitating such a measure.
In its order, the HC said – “An 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 cogent reason for presuming that the petitioner would not appear before the investigation agency. Hence, no case is made out for issuing the impugned LOC.”
It added – “The impugned 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.”
The Delhi HC allowed the plea filed by Ayyub against ED’s action of restraining her from leaving the country, citing apprehensions of evading probe in the money laundering case.
However, the Court directed the scribe to 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, and that she shall deposit an FDR (Fixed Deposit Receipt) to the tune of Rs. one lakh before the ED at Mumbai.
She was also directed to return to India on April 11 and shall give an undertaking to appear before the ED immediately on her return and on dates that might be fixed by the investigation agency for interrogation, if any, after the travel period.
Rana Ayyub had approached the Court challenging Enforcement Directorate’s action of restraining her from leaving the country. The plea, therefore, prayed that she must be enabled to travel out of India, and that any order or Look Out Circular or direction preventing her from travelling abroad be quashed and set aside.
Ayyub is also scheduled to travel from London to Rome on April 5 to address the Keynote Speech at the Perugia International Journalism Festival, 2022, where she is scheduled to speak about the state of journalism in India, and then return to Mumbai on April 11 via London.
An enquiry was initiated by ED’s Mumbai Zonal Office under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) against Ayyub last year over some funds received by her from the crowd funding campaigns on Ketto platform.