Court directs CBI to withdraw Look Out Circular against Aakar Patel
New Delhi: A Delhi court on Thursday directed the CBI to withdraw a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against the chair of Amnesty International India Board Aakar Patel in a case of an alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act and apologise to him.
The court said a "written apology" from Director 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.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pawan Kumar passed the order and directed the probe agency to file a compliance report by April 30.
The court noted that apart from the monetary loss, the applicant had suffered mental harassment as he was not allowed to visit 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.
The court also said that if the accused was a flight risk during the investigation or the trial, he would have been arrested during the investigation. "There is an inherent contradiction in the stand taken by CBI, on the one hand, CBl claims that the LOC was got issued as the applicant was a flight risk, and in contradiction to that the accused was not arrested during the investigation and charge-sheet was filed without arrest," the court said.
It said that the CBI also did not explain what precautions or measures were taken during the investigation or at the time of filing the charge sheet to ensure the presence of the accused during the trial.
Interestingly, as informed by the Investigating Officer (IO) the application for the issuance of LOC was moved on the day, the charge-sheet was complete and dispatched for filing in the court. It shows that it is not the case of oversight or ignorance rather it is a deliberate act of the investigating agency to put restriction on the valuable rights of the accused, the court said.
It is not the case of the investigating agency that the accused had evaded his arrest or did not join the investigation, it said.
Before issuance of LOC, the consequences on the rights of the affected person should have been foreseen. The fundamental rights of any person cannot be curtailed without any procedure established by law, the judge said.
The court also noted that the issuance of the LOC caused a monetary loss of around Rs 3.8 lakh to the accused as he has missed his flight and was not allowed to board.
"It is correct that the discretion for moving the application of LOC lies with the investigating agency but the discretion cannot be exercised arbitrarily without any justifiable reasons or grounds," it said.
In the present scenario, the Director, of CBI is expected to sensitize the officials who are part of the issuance of LOC, it said, adding that the accountability of the concerned officials, in this case, should be fixed.
Earlier during the arguments, the CBI opposed the application saying there was the likelihood of Patel fleeing from justice if he was allowed to leave the country.
The CBI said that Patel was highly influential.
"We are not demanding for 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.
The court said he could have run away during the investigation also then.
Patel's counsel had 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 has 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.
It submitted that Patel was stopped by immigration authorities at the Bangalore International Airport on Wednesday while he was boarding a flight to the US. The application claimed that the action was taken despite an order by a Gujarat court granting him permission to travel abroad.