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New Delhi: Former head of Amnesty International India, writer Aakar Patel, was stopped from leaving the country at the Bengaluru airport citing a lookout circular issued against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Patel has said he did not know of the lookout circular against him and in any case, wondered by the CBI would need to issue a circular against someone whose whereabouts they knew. Later in the day, he moved a Delhi court against the CBI. The court will hear the case tomorrow and Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pawan Kumar has issued notice to the CBI.
This comes within a week of 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.
Patel is a frequent critic of the Narendra Modi government and recently published a book analysing the prime minister’s governance. Both he and Amnesty International India have been targeted several times by government machinery.
The CBI in 2019 filed a case against Amnesty International India and three linked organisations after the Union home ministry alleged that it had violated the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act and the Indian Penal Code. The Enforcement Directorate began a separate investigation into it shortly afterwards.
On Twitter, Patel wrote that he was on the “exit control list” even though he secured his passport with the help of a court order specifically for the trip he was taking to the US. He told Indian Express that he was travelling to deliver speeches at Berkeley and New York University.
stopped from leaving india at Bangalore airport. am on the exit control list. Got passport back through court order specifically for this trip to the US
— Aakar Patel (@Aakar__Patel) April 6, 2022
In 2020, Patel was arrested and then let out on bail after a Bharatiya Janata Party MLA in Surat filed a complaint alleging that he had posted “offensive” tweets against the Ghanchi community in Gujarat.
His passport had had to be surrendered as a condition for bail.
Patel on Wednesday, tweeted a Surat District and Sessions Court order which on February 19 granted him permission to use his own passport from March 1 to May 30 and visit the US, subject to six conditions and the payment of Rs 2 lakh.
Patel was required by the court to submit copies of his passport and plane tickets, surrender the passport within five days of returning to India and give detailed contact information on places he planned to visit in the US. The court had also asked Patel not to “misuse his liberty” in addition to not delay proceedings citing absence.
— Aakar Patel (@Aakar__Patel) April 6, 2022
Patel wrote on Twitter that the court order notwithstanding, he was told by immigration officers that the CBI has put him on the “exit control list”. He tagged the Prime Minister’s Office, asking why that was the case.
“CBI officer called to say I am on the Look-Out Circular because of the case Modi govt has filed against Amnesty International India,” he also wrote.
Patel has earlier spoken of the vast number of cases that have been slapped against him and Amnesty India with the use of central agencies.
“There are cases (I have lost count of the number) related to the organisation (Amnesty International India) I was working for until last year, which continues to be harassed through the (Central Bureau of Investigation) CBI, Enforcement Directorate and (Ministry of Home Affairs) MHA and through cases like sedition filed by the (Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad) ABVP,” Patel had said.
Amnesty International India was in 2016 booked for ‘sedition’ and for ‘promoting enmity’ by the Bengaluru police after ABVP – the student wing of the RSS – lodged a complaint that anti-national songs, slogans and speeches were made at an event organised by it. The charges were filed after “azaadi” slogans were raised by some Kashmiris, The Wire had reported then.
In 2020, after a eight-year stint in India during which it addressed crucial human rights violations Amnesty International India shut its operations in the country, days after the Enforcement Directorate froze the organisation’s accounts.
Note: This report has been updated with the information that Patel has moved Delhi high court.