Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Delhi Court orders CBI to withdraw look out notice against Amnesty’s Aakar Patel

A Delhi court on Thursday ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to withdraw the Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against human rights activist and Chair of Amnesty International India Board Aakar Patel in a Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act case.

The court asked the CBI to file a compliance report in relation to the case.

Patel had approached the court after he was stopped at the Bengaluru airport from boarding a flight to the United States where he was slated to deliver a lecture.

“The applicant suffered the value of his tickets and his immediate program as well on account of the arbitrary and absolute illegal actions on part of the investigating authorities,” Patel’s plea read.

On Wednesday, Aakar Patel was on his way to attend multiple conferences on the use of social media for social and political change and the attacks on civil society in India organized by the University of Michigan, University of Berkeley, and New York University in the United States of America. Immigration authorities at the Bangalore Airport prevented him from leaving the country despite a judicial order permitting him to travel outside India for his speaking engagements.

Earlier today, the CBI had informed the Court that the LOC was issued against the petitioner since he was an influential person and there was a chance of him fleeing from justice, Bar and Bench reported.

In October 2020, Amnesty International India was forced to cease its human rights work after its bank accounts were frozen by the Enforcement Directorate.

The case pertains to evasion of Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules (FCRA Rules) through “commercial” methods after Amnesty UK, remitted ₹10 crores and subsequently ₹26 crores to its Indian entities without the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Since then, Amnesty International India has been fighting multiple court cases instituted by various agencies of the Indian Government against the organization. Before it halted operations, Amnesty International India faced a concerted and vicious smear campaign of spurious allegations, raids by various investigative agencies, malicious media leaks, and intimidation for merely speaking the truth to power, the watchdog said. As the Chair of Amnesty International India Board, Aakar Patel is regularly at the forefront of ongoing litigation.

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