Karnataka HC permits Amnesty International to withdraw limited funds from frozen accounts

The petitioner organisation argued that they are being constantly harassed and the donations made to them are not for profit but for upholding human rights

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Today, on December 16, the Karnataka High Court has partly allowed the petition filed by international human rights body, Amnesty International’s India offices, challenging the communication issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to banks directing them to freeze the accounts held by trust. Senior Advocate Professor Ravivarma Kumar appeared for the petitioner and Additional Solicitor General M B Nargund appeared for ED.

The Single Bench of Justice P Dinesh said, “Petition is partly allowed the petitioner is allowed to withdraw an amount of Rs 60 lakh from the bank accounts”, reported LiveLaw. In the course of the hearing the ED had refused to entertain whether it is willing to allow the petitioner organisation to make statutory dues like salaries, tax payments, etc to the tune of Rs 40 lakh per month, from the five bank accounts which were mentioned in ED’s communication to banks but not attached by its order passed on November 26.

The petitioners have argued that this is a very serious matter as they are being repeatedly harassed. “We are only interested in working for human rights”, the counsel added. Senior Counsel Ravivarma also said that, “Seizure has taken place and no reasons have been recorded and no order is passed and within 30 days matter is not taken before the adjudicating authority as prescribed. Therefore, it is ultra vires of section 17 (1) (A) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.”

He further asserted that Amnesty is a human rights organisation and not a ‘for-profit’ organisation, the donations are for upholding those rights. He contended that even in the November 26 order by the court, there was no mention of the accounts tainted with a particular donation under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) or Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

He submitted further, “I have made out a prima facie case, balance of convenience is in my favour and the organisation will be choked, if the interim order will not be made. It will be a great fraud to any human rights activities carried out in this country, which is a constitutional value.”

But ASG Nargund argued that the petitioners have an effective alternate remedy under the statute before the adjudicating authority and then the appellate authority before approaching the High Court and thus this is not a fit case to grant any relief. He also said that they were in the process of investigations and during that process the officer of the department communicated to the bank and thus the proceeds of the crime in the bank account were frozen.

He said, “These proceeds of the crime are at this point being used according to them for creating awareness in the society. According to us, it is to create problems in the Indian society.” As the bank accounts of Amnesty International were seized, they stopped their operation in India in September, 2020.


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