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Delhi HC: Citizens Can’t be Stopped from Travelling Abroad Unless They are Facing Cognisable Offence

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Debangana Ray

Published on July 5, 2022 at 19:20 IST

The Delhi High Court stated that Look Out Circulars (LOC) issued for intimation purposes cannot be used to prevent persons from travelling abroad unless they are facing investigation or trial on the accusation of a cognisable offence under relevant laws.

Justice Mukta Gupta said that an LOC of “Intimation” was meant to ensure the investigating agency is kept informed about the arrival and departure details of the individual.

The order stated, It is evident that unless a citizen is suspected to be involved in the commission or facing investigation or trial on the accusation of offences, which are cognizable under the Indian Penal Code or other statutes.”

“The citizen can neither be detained, arrested or prevented from leaving the country and the originating agency can only seek intimation of his arrival and/or departure.

The court was deciding on a plea filed in a money laundering case registered for the Enforcement Directorate against the petitioner who sought the withdrawal of the LOC.

It referred to the office memorandum issued in 2010 by the foreigners regional registration office regarding LOCs relating to Indians and foreigners.

The relevant clause stated thatIn cases where there is no cognizable offence under IPC or other penal laws, the LOC subject cannot be detained/ arrested or prevented from leaving the country.

The originating agency can only request that they be informed about the arrival/ departure of the subject in such cases.”

Hence the order underscored that the authorities using LOC could be used the same as a preventive LOC to restrain or detain a person.

Justice Gupta said, “It is well settled that what cannot be done directly, cannot be done indirectly.

The Court observed that in the case at hand, the accused was neither an accused in the predicate offence nor in the two ECIRs as he was admittedly a minor at the time of commission of the purported transactions.

“Thus, a preventive/detention LOC leading to the detention of the petitioner was clearly unwarranted.” the Court said.

On the other hand, the counsel for FRRO informed the court that the petitioner’s LOC was modified from a preventive one to one of “intimation”.

The Court noted that it was only when the petitioner filed the present petition that the preventive/detention LOC was converted into an intimation LOC.

As the ED had already taken remedial action, the Court did not see the need to issue further directions.

“Needless to note that in the garb of LOC of intimation, the petitioner will not be detained or prevented at the airport or any other port on the pretext that first intimation has to be given to the originating agency,” clarified the court.