Delhi HC to hear ED’s response to Rana Ayyub’s plea against being put on a watchlist today

The journalist had been detained at the airport and prevented from flying abroad

Rana Ayub

A Single-judge bench of the Delhi High Court, presided by Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, sought response from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday, to the Criminal Writ Petition filed by the Ayyub challenging a ‘Look Out Notice’ by the ED. The court is expected to hear the ED’s response today.

Ayyub was detained at the Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport on March 29, 2022, by immigration officers when she was on her way to London to attend a journalism related event, and thereafter travel to other locations including Italy for similar events.



Journalist Rana Ayyub was detained at 12 noon in a room adjacent to the immigration counter and was informed that the immigration officers were clarifying some remarks on her file. She was later informed after an hour that she was detained based on a look out notice issued by the ED which probes her in connection with a case in alleged money laundering. Thereafter her immigration stamp on passport was stamped as ‘cancelled’. The immigration officers later told Ayyub that they had been instructed to not allow her to travel abroad by the ED. Ayyub told The Indian Express that she received the fresh summons from ED after she had already been detained at airport.

Virtually grounded by a vindictive regime, Ayyub then moved Delhi HC against the injustice. On Friday, April 01, 2022, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh, sought a response from the ED in connection with Ayyub’s petition against the agency’s action of restraining her from travelling abroad. The matter will be heard today.

Brief Background of the case

In wake of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, India announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24, 2020. Ayyub, started receiving numerous requests for help. While, at first, she helped people personally, but soon realised that it would not be enough and resorted to online crowd-funding using a platform named Ketto to raise the funds to help people across the country.

The case is based on 3 crowd-funding campaigns initiated by Ayyub, during the pandemic (April 2020 – June 2021). The case is registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) by the Ghaziabad Police in September 2021. The ED case is based upon the same FIR where it was alleged that Ayyub collected funds through Ketto platform in the name of Covid Relief work but diverted the funds.

The IT Department issued summons to Ayyub regarding inquiry into her tax assessment of the year 2021-22 regarding the funds received by her from the crowd-funding campaigns. ED initiated an enquiry under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) by issuing an Office Order dated August 03, 2021 against Ayyub.

About the Petition

The Petition urges that by the act of restricting her travel, there has been violation of Petitioners Fundamental Right under Article 14, 19 (1)(a), 19 (1)(g) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

“Article 14 – Right to Equality – The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”

“Article 19 (1)(a) – All citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression”

“Article 19 (1)(g) – All citizens have the right to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.””

“Article 21 – No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

The Petition by claiming that her right to travel abroad is recognized as inalienable facet under right to life and personal liberty further cites Maneka Gandhi case of 1978 stating, “The action of the Respondents falls foul of the principles laid down in Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India and Anr. (1978) 1 SCC 248 and a plethora of judgments that follow the ratio laid down therein.”

The Petition also states that the Petitioner was in constant communication with the ED throughout this period of investigation and was also cooperative in the investigation procedure. The Petition states, “There is no cogent reason or ground for issuance of a Look Out Circular against the Petitioner as she has cooperated with the investigation throughout and has been in regular communication with the Respondent No. 2. There is no flight risk and the Petitioner has not evaded the legal process.”

The Petition further claims that to support the malice act of ED about restricting her from travelling, the ED mailed a fresh summons to the Petitioner after almost two hours of her detention, which asked her to appear before ED on April 01, 2022 in New Delhi. It further stated, “Thus, the curious and rather convenient issuance of a summon on 29.03.2022 requiring the Petitioner’s presence in New Delhi on 01.04.2022, having already detained her for purported reasons not explained to the Petitioner, casts a dark shadow on the legality of the actions of Respondent No. 1 and Respondent No. 2.”

The Petition further states that the issuance of summons by ED at the last moment was a total replica of the earlier summons dated January 25, 2022. “Thus, the summon dt. 29.02.2022 is a clear sham exercise, and an afterthought, to try and legitimise the illegal and arbitrary action of the Respondent No. 1 on the instructions of the Respondent No. 2, to deny the Petitioner her fundamental right to travel as well as her fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, inter-alia to speak at a journalism related event in London and then in Perugia near Rome, in Italy, regarding the gender based online violence faced by women journalists globally,” the Petition states.

The Petition urges that Petitioner being a journalist who speaks truth to power, also becomes a source of ‘discomfort or inconvenience’ for the government, further states that, “Dissenting voices are integral to the democratic society and polity envisaged by the Indian Constitution, and any mala fide or arbitrary action of the Respondents which unconstitutionally curbs free speech ought to be quashed and set aside by Constitutional Courts.”

The complete petition may be read here: 



Arguments by Adv. Vrinda Grover, representing Rana Ayyub

The Adv. had submitted the documents to the Court to reveal the fact that Ayyub had been cooperative in the investigation carried by the department. The inquiry was initiated with a document dated received to the Petitioner by ED’s Delhi Office from Mumbai Zonal Branch on February 1 and no summons was thereafter issued.

“After February 1, there is no summon, no communication from ED to me. Till on February 5, this is a letter from my HDFC Bank to me. I am informed by my bank. Provisional attachment takes place. I get on 8 March, this is from adjudicating authority show cause notice under PMLA. Enquiry is done, funds attached, documents recieved, show cause notice is issued. I am in regular communication thereafter,” Grover argued as reported by LiveLaw.

Grover further made arguments that there was no reason to detain the Petitioner at the Airport as there was no summons pending against her. “Actually there is no enquiry or investigation to be done. This is a sham and an afterthought, to interrupt my fundamental right as a journalist to practice my fundamental right to free speech and expression,” Grover further argued as reported by LiveLaw.

“I am not at flight risk. My program I had announced on social media as it was a public event. I have put all that on social media. My Return is on April 11. I have to file reply (in enquiry) by April 17,” she added further as reported by LiveLaw. Grover argued further, “Nobody has summoned her for questioning her till now. If the idea is that the people who are critical… if in my writing I have been critical of the State, will they then not allow me to speak?”

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju who appeared on behalf of ED made an argument that the Petitioner was involved in a serious offence related to fund of amounts over 1 Crore rupees. LiveLaw quoted him as saying, “Monies were received not only in dollars but also in rupees, running almost 2 crores. We have found that flaw bills have been submitted by her in the name of some entities in the name of relief work.”

The Order may be read here:


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