A Delhi court today ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to immediately withdraw the Look Out Circular issued against Former Amnesty International India Chief Aakar Patel in a Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) case. Mr Patel had moved the court after he was stopped from boarding a flight to the United States yesterday. He sought permission from the court to travel to the US till May 30, 2022.
The court also suggested that the CBI Director apologise to Mr Patel, acknowledging a lapse on part of his subordinate.
“In this case, a written apology from the head of CBI acknowledging lapse on part of his subordinate to the applicant would go a long way in not only healing wounds of the applicant but also upholding trust and confidence of the public in the premier institution,” the court said.
In a strongly worded order, the court said that the LOC should not have been issued “merely on the basis of apprehensions arising out of whims and fancies of the investigating agency” and that the consequences on the rights of the affected person should have been foreseen before the circular was issued.
“This act of the investigating agency has caused monetary loss of around Rs.3.8 lakh to the applicant/accused as he has missed his flight and he was not allowed to board because of the LOC issued against him,” the court further said.
The writer-activist took to Twitter to share the news, where he also called the accusations of money laundering against Amnesty “absurd”.
The absurdity of accusing amnesty of criminality (of all things money laundering). ask amnesty wallahs how hard it it to get a comma or ampersand passed in a statement. This is a great org that I’m v proud of and honoured to call my community https://t.co/bNevVES6eF
— Aakar Patel (@Aakar__Patel) April 7, 2022
“The absurdity of accusing amnesty of criminality (of all things money laundering). ask amnesty wallahs how hard it is to get a comma or ampersand passed in a statement. This is a great org that I’m v proud of and honoured to call my community,” he said.
The Court also asked the CBI Director to sensitize the officials who are part of the issuance of the circular. “It is further expected that accountability of the concerned officials, in this case, be fixed,” the Rouse Avenue court said while ordering the withdrawal of LoC against Aakar Patel.
Mr Patel has publicly stated that his books that are critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are likely the reason for him being prevented from speaking at lectures abroad. “‘Price of the Modi years’ was published in November 2021. The following month the loc (Look out Circular) was opened,” he had said on Twitter.
On Wednesday, he said that he was prevented from travelling despite a Gujarat court order granting him permission “specifically” for the trip.
CBI sources, however, said that Mr Patel was granted permission to travel to the US by a Surat court in a case registered by the Gujarat police, but the Look Out Notice was opened against him in connection with another case registered by the agency against Amnesty International India and others for alleged Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) violations pertaining to Rs 36 crore in foreign funding.
Mr Patel had approached a CBI court in Delhi seeking directions to the agency for the removal of the Look Out Circular issued against him.
The CBI had filed a case against Amnesty International India and three of its associate organisations in November 2019, following a complaint lodged by the Home Ministry for alleged violation of the provision of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 and the Indian Penal Code.
The case was registered against Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd (AIIPL), Indians For Amnesty International Trust (IAIT), Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT), Amnesty International South Asia Foundation (AISAF) and others.
According to the complaint filed by the Home Ministry, a payment of Rs 10 crore, classified as Foreign Direct Investment, was remitted to Amnesty India from its London office. Another Rs 26 crore has been remitted to Amnesty India, “primarily from UK-based entities”.
Amnesty’s Bangalore offices had been raided by the Enforcement Directorate in 2018 in connection with a foreign exchange contravention case.
The group had also faced sedition charges, later dropped, over a 2016 event to discuss alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.