'Can't Leave Without Permission': CBI Judge Stays Order For Withdrawal of Aakar Patel LOC

The Delhi court has granted relief to CBI which had challenged an order in favour of the former Amnesty International India head.

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New Delhi: A Special CBI court has stayed Thursday’s order asking the Central Bureau of Investigation to withdraw the lookout circular against Aakar Patel, which prohibited him from travelling outside the country. The latest order, on April 8, also directed the former head of Amnesty International India to not leave the country “without permission from the court”.

LiveLaw has reported on court proceedings which reflect that while hearing an appeal by CBI against the April 7 order in favour of Patel, special CBI Judge Santosh Snehi Mann held that the CBI had not got enough time to contest it.

“Stay operation of impugned order vis a vis direction to CBI director for compliance wrt observations made in the later part of the order specially wrt [with regard to] written apology,” the Delhi court ordered today, according to LiveLaw.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pawan Kumar on Thursday said that Patel was free to travel out of the country and asked the CBI to also issue a written apology to Patel, noting that it will go a long way in “not only healing wounds of applicant but also upholding trust and confidence of the public in the premier institution.”

In its 10-page order, the court also said that there cannot be any unfettered control or restriction on the right to travel and it is a part of fundamental rights enshrined under Article b 19 and 21 of the constitution. It also said that CBI’s lookout circular was a “deliberate act” of restriction on Patel.

Despite this ruling, Patel was once again stopped from leaving the country on Thursday night. On Friday, he filed a contempt of court case against the CBI. The investigating officer was unreachable when Patel was at the airport, he said, thus not abiding by the court order that he be allowed to travel.

During the hearing of Patel’s contempt plea before Judge Dharmender Singh, the CBI said that it will not file compliance as it was challenging the now impugned order.

Nahi kar rahe nahi karenge (We are not doing, we won’t be doing). We have filed a revision,” the CBI counsel said, according to Bar and Bench.

Patel was first stopped from leaving the country at the Bengaluru airport on April 6 citing a CBI lookout circular issued against him. Patel moved court against this and alleged that he was not aware of the circular against him or to which case it pertained to.

He told The Wire that a CBI official told him that he had been intentionally kept in the dark on the notice.

The Delhi court had asked CBI why Patel was not arrested or surety not secured by CBI during the investigation against him if he was a flight risk.

As he also told The Wire, Patel at the hearing on Thursday, requested the court to deduct the Rs 3.8 lakhs cost of the air ticket that he incurred, from the salary of the erring CBI officer. In court on Friday, Patel contended that his losses were up to Rs 6 lakhs now.

“Citizens rights can’t be railroaded like this. It is time that we send a suitable reply to the law enforcement agencies and society,” Patel’s lawyer had said in court.

CBI’s arguments on Friday

Advocate Nikhil Goel appearing for CBI said that the right to issue a lookout circular was incorrectly interpreted by Judge Kumar’s court and that unsavoury remarks had been made regarding the functioning of the agency, which “should be quashed.”

“To say that because I haven’t arrested somebody and that no LOC can be issued is against the basic purpose of issuing an LOC. We are dealing with a situation where there is a gap between end of investigation and beginning of proceedings before the court,” Goel told the court.

Goel sought to highlight that Patel had made his “second attempt to leave the country” on Thursday night.

Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir, appearing for Patel, said that not only was the investigating officer informed in court that the write would leave by midnight, but that the now impugned order clearly asked the CBI to inform immigration officials “immediately” that he would be doing so.

Goel also argued that “there was no material to say” that the CBI was biased against Patel.

Patel told The Wire that he suspects that he was subject to such a sudden travel ban because his recent book is critical of the Narendra Modi government.

In court on Thursday, advocate Mir also referred to journalist Rana Ayyub being stopped from travelling to the UK due to an eleventh hour summons directing her to appear before the Enforcement Directorate on April 1. The Delhi high court later allowed Ayyub to travel.