Aakar Patel granted relief, free to travel, CBI ordered to withdraw Look out Circular

Aakar patel

A Delhi Court on Thursday granted relief to former Amnesty International India Chief Aakar Patel, who has challenged the Look Out Circular issued against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), LiveLaw reported. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pawan Kumar pronounced the order after reserving it earlier today. He directed CBI to immediately withdraw the Look Out Circular issued against Patel. 

The Court said that it has passed certain directions to the CBI for which a compliance report is directed to be filed before the Court.

A detailed order is awaited.

Patel had approached the court and sought directions to the CBI for withdrawal of the said Look Out Circular and also seeking permission to travel to United States of America till May 30, 2022 to take up his assignment and lecture series. Patel was stopped from boarding a flight to the US at Bengaluru airport earlier today. He claims that the impugned action was taken despite a Gujarat court’s order granting him permission “specifically for this trip”. 

He is being prosecuted before the court of Sixth Additional District & Sessions Judge Surat, Gujarat in a private complaint lodged by a BJP legislator in Gujarat by the name of Purneshbhai Ishwarbhai Modi. Vide order dated February 19, the Court permitted him to travel abroad and accordingly his passport was released for a period March 3 to May 30, 2022. 

The CBI purportedly stopped him from leaving the country on the basis of a Look Out Notice issued in connection with a case registered by the agency against Amnesty International India for alleged FCRA violations. Patel has stated that he is not a named accused in the said FIR and was given a notice under Section 160 CrPC only once for appearance on December 24, 2020, which he complied with. Thereafter, he claims that he has never been called by the CBI authorities. 

During the course of hearing today, Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir appearing for Patel began by referring to the response filed on behalf of the CBI and called it “nothing but a mere rhetoric” which and had nothing to do with the application. 



Arguing that the look out circular was issued in blatant violation of the Delhi High Court ruling in Sumer Singh Salkan case, Mir added thus: 

“Let him (Investigating Officer) demonstrate from his case diary, what is the attempt till date, where by any propensity or feeling, speculated, hallucination or otherwise, that had come with the agency that I had not joined the investigation? Now for the IO to say, that we opened LOC against him in order to thwart any attempt, so he doesn’t know whether there will ever be an attempt.” 

Mir argued that while the IO failed to inform Patel about the issuance of LOC, he added that Patel was put to a direct prejudice an loss of about 3 lakhs 80 thousand which must be paid by the IO to him from his salary. 

“Citizens rights cannot be railroaded by agency like this. It is time that we send a suitable reply to law enforcement agencies and society,” Mir added. 

Mir also argued that the act of the IO in issuing the LOC was in blatant violation of the Code of Criminal Procedure, morality, ethics and legal obligation as a public officer and a police officer. 

“There is a reason why the legendary Justice wrote ED Royappa and then wrote Maneka Gandhi of which every lawyer and judge is proud of. Maneka Gandhi is a flag of Indian jurists. The procedural obligations obligates them. Name doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do and whether that is fair, reasonable and procedurally sustainable? The question will now arise, once he files a chargesheet and doesn’t ask accused to come forward and appear, means that he is not concerned with me and leaves it to your honour,” Mir argued.

He added “In his case diary, right from beginning of FIR registration till date, has he got any substantial evidence which necessitates him to say that loc must be opened against me? I say none. Not a piece of starch cloth. The law empowers us. It is our conscience that we come to aid of persecuted. Aakar Patel’s LOC amounts to persecution.” “The fundamental rights guaranteed under art. 19 and 21, especially after due process, is not to be trampled or to be rendered redundant by agency with complete sense of impunity.”

At the outset, the Court asked the CBI IO as well as agency’s counsel as to what was the necessity in opening the LOC against Patel.

To this, the CBI IO informed the Court that an application for LOC, after taking approval of competent authority, was written and that on December 31, 2021, a request was sent to Ministry of Home Affairs for opening of the LOC. The Court was also informed that the chargesheet was filed without arrest and that the application was moved in anticipation that Patel will flee from justice.

The officer also informed the Court that there is no procedure to be followed by the CBI to give detailed reasons to MHA for issuance of LOC and that merely a performa is sent.

 Rebutting the said argument, Mir submitted thus:

“Pre formatted proforma basis doesn’t work. It would be in blatant violation of due process.”

“From the Pre formatted photograph, passport no etc., what is the material with the IO that Mr. Patel falls within the parameter of exceptional case? It’s not MHA who can be saddled with responsibility because you are the investigating authority. There is no much material which they have to suffice. Where is the material? How is the departure of Mr. Patel being invited by Michigan, Berkley University detrimental to unity and integrity of India? How does he suffice the requirement of an exception? OMs have been railroaded without complete sense of impunity.”

It is Patel’s case that the LOC is illegal and unnecessarily puts fetters on his fundamental rights.

The plea states,

“The applicant suffered the value of his tickets and his immediate program as well on account of arbitrary and absolute illegal actions on part of the investigating authorities…(who) acted in the most illegal, arbitrary and nefarious manner in putting fetters on the fundamental rights of the applicant and have not even bothered to inform him well in : advance for which there would be no predicament whatsoever with the investigating authorities.” 

The petitioner cites the case of Sumer Singh Salkan v. Asst. Director & Others, where the Delhi High Court has held that no LOC can be opened to the detriment of any accused, witness or any citizen of this country and unless and until there are non bailable warrants appearing in the field or that the person concerned is deliberately evading or even summons by a court of competent jurisdiction.

He also relied on journalist Rana Ayyub’s case wherein LOC issued against her by ED was quashed.

The plea adds that Patel is in urgent need to travel as he has to deliver lectures no April 8 at USA. Further, the offences alleged in the FIR are not in the category of ‘grave offences’ as the offences are punishable upto 5 years or only with fine. Moreover, it is not the case of CBI that Patel is a flight risk by any stretch of imagination.



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