Court asks CBI to withdraw lookout circular against Aakar Patel
A Delhi court on Thursday directed the CBI to withdraw a lookout circular issued against Amnesty International India chairman Aakar Patel and expressed the opinion that a written apology from the agency director “acknowledging the lapse on the part of his subordinate” would help heal matters.
Immigration officials at Bangalore airport had on Wednesday prevented Patel from flying abroad on the basis of the circular, whose existence the CBI had never communicated to him, the Amnesty official says.
Additional chief metropolitan magistrate Pawan Kumar said the issuance of the circular was not “oversight or ignorance” but a “deliberate act… to put restriction on the valuable rights of the accused”.
He asked the CBI chief to “sensitise the officials who are part of the issuance of LOC (lookout circular)” and said he “further expected that accountability of the concerned officials in this case (will) be fixed”.
He allowed Patel “to approach the appropriate forum for the compensation for the loss caused to him”.
Patel had sought that the circular be withdrawn and the Rs 3.8 lakh he had paid for his air ticket be reimbursed to him from the salary of the CBI official who had issued the circular but failed to inform him. The circular pertained to alleged foreign exchange violation.
The court dismissed the CBI argument that Patel was a flight risk and said a “written apology” from its director “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”. It sought a compliance report by April 30.
Patel’s counsel Tanveer Ahmed Mir said the nudge for an apology was a first in India.
“Aakar Patel is good to fly! The hon’ble judge has directed the CBI director to tender a written apology to Aakar Patel. This (is) first of a kind in independent India and in the history of CBI,” he tweeted.
Aakar Patel is good to fly ! The hon’ble judge has directed the CBI director to tender a written apology to aakar Patel . This first of a kind in independent India and in the history of CBI . This order sends a strong message to law enforcement agencies and restores the faith… pic.twitter.com/WB5vbrfD8E— Tanveer Ahmed Mir (@MirAhmedTanveer) April 7, 2022
“This order sends a strong message to law enforcement agencies and restores the faith….”
Patel told The Telegraph: “My reaction is that it’s the right thing to have been done. When the government does something unlawful it should be overturned. And it has been.”
He added: “I will wait for his (CBI director’s) apology.”
Patel is now preparing to travel to the US, where he is scheduled to deliver a series of lectures at various universities.
“Before issuance of LOC (lookout circular), 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.
“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.”
The court noted that Patel had joined the probe once and that no other process was on to secure his appearance, nor had any warrant been issued against him. Nor had the CBI claimed that Patel had evaded arrest or failed to join the investigation.
The court said that if the accused were a flight risk during the investigation or trial, he would have been arrested during the probe.
“There is an inherent contradiction in the stand taken by CBI, on the one hand, CBl claims that the LOC (lookout circular) was got issued as the applicant was a flight risk, and in contradiction to that the accused was not arrested during the investigation and chargesheet was filed without arrest,” the court said.
“Interestingly, as informed by the investigating officer (IO) the application for the issuance of LOC was moved on the day the chargesheet was complete and dispatched for filing in the court,” it added.
“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 Patel could “approach the court or other forum” for compensation.
“However, the word ‘compensation’ is a generic term and cannot be restricted to monetary compensation only,” it said.
“In the case at hand, apart from the monetary loss, the applicant had suffered mental harassment as he was not allowed to visit on the scheduled time.”