Delhi High Court: While expressing that a LOC is a coercive measure to make a person surrender, Chandra Dhari Singh, J., noting that the petitioner had appeared on each and every date before the Investigating Agency when summoned, quashed the LOC issued against Rana Ayyub.

Petitioner approached the Court seeking quashing of the Look Out Circular issued against her that restrained her from travelling abroad.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner is a globally renowned journalist and was being persecuted for speaking truth to power and being critical of the incumbent establishment.

It was stated that upon the petitioner’s arrival at the airport and after passport-visa check her travel was approved, however, at 12 noon she was detained by the Bureau of Immigration and officers told her that they have instructions from the ED to not allow her to board the flight and was conveyed that she would be receiving summons from the ED. Soon after, her immigration stamp was cancelled. The summons arrived in her email.

Analysis and Decision

High Court held that it was evident that the LOC was issued in haste and despite the absence of any pre-condition necessitating such a measure.

Bench expressed that,

An LOC is a coercive measure to make a person surrender and consequentially interferes with petitioner’s right of personal liberty and free movement. It is to be issued in cases where the accused is deliberately evading summons/arrest or where such person fails to appear in Court despite a Non-Bailable Warrant. 

It was noted that the petitioner had appeared on each and every date before the Investigating Agency when summoned, and hence there was no cogent reason for presuming that the petitioner would not appear before the Investigation Agency, therefore no case was made out for issuing the impugned LOC.

Therefore, the impugned LOC was set aside as being devoid of merits as well as infringing the Human right of the petitioner to travel abroad and to exercise her freedom of speech and expression.

Petition was allowed in view of the following conditions:

(a) The petitioner shall intimate her travel dates and detailed itinerary to the Investigation Agency forthwith along with the address of the places that the petitioner shall be visiting;

(b)The petitioner shall deposit an FDR to the tune of Rs. 1 lakh before the Enforcement Directorate at Mumbai;

(c)The petitioner shall not attempt to tamper with the evidence or influence the witnesses in any manner;

(d) The petitioner shall return to India on the date specified i.e. 11th April 2022; and

(e)The petitioner shall give an undertaking to appear before the Investigation Agency immediately on her return and on dates that might be fixed by the Investigation Agency for interrogation, if any, after the travel period.

[Rana Ayyub v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 961, decided on 4-4-2022]

Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner:

Ms. Vrinda Grover, Mr. Soutik Banerjee, Ms. Mannat Tipnis and Ms. Devika Tulsiani, Advocates

For the Respondent:

Mr. Mukul Singh, CGSC with Mr. Devesh Dubey, GP and Mr. Bharat Singh, Advocates for R-1/UOI.

Mr. S.V. Raju, ASG with Mr. Amit Mahajan, CGSC, Mr. Nitesh Rana, SPP, Mr. Dhruv Pande, Mr. Ali Khan and Mr. Imon Bhattacharya, Advocates for R-2.

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