The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday, April 1, opposed a petition by journalist Rana Ayyub seeking to quash a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against her, barring her from travelling abroad. The ED alleged before the Delhi High Court that Ayyub was involved in a serious offence regarding funds involving over Rs 1 crore. Justice Chandra Dhari Singh granted time to Additional Solicitor General SV Raju to place certain facts on record and listed the matter for further hearing on April 4.
Ayyub was detained at the Mumbai Airport by the Bureau of Immigration on March 29, when she was supposed to travel to London to give a speech at the International Centre for Journalists. She approached the High Court challenging the LOC issued against her, and sought to quash any direction or instruction preventing her from travelling abroad.
The ASG and ED’s lawyer Amit Mahajan contended that monies were received not only in dollars but also in rupees, running over Rs 1 crore. He also alleged that certain fake bills have been submitted by her, and money that she had collected for relief work has been syphoned off.
Read: Rana Ayyub stopped at Mumbai Airport, gets ED summons just before flying to UK
The journalist, in her petition through advocates Vrinda Grover and Soutik Banerjee, said that on March 29, she arrived at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, Mumbai, to board a flight to London to attend events about the global problem of cyber attacks on women journalists, as well as to deliver a keynote speech on the status of journalism in India.
However, she was detained at the airport and the officers of Bureau of Immigration told her that they have instructions from the ED to not allow her to board the flight, and the immigration stamp on her passport was stamped as ‘cancelled’. Later, the ED also emailed her summons to her under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and asked her to appear before the agency on April 1.
An inquiry was initiated by the Mumbai Zonal Office of ED under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) against her last year and certain documents and information was sought from her.
Grover argued that Ayyub has been cooperating and participating in the investigation and termed the recent summons as a sham and an afterthought.
She said there was nothing on record to detain the journalist at the airport and no summons was pending against her and that the whole exercise was done in a complete hasty manner.
“Actually there is no inquiry or investigation to be done. This is a sham, to interrupt my fundamental right as a journalist to practice my profession and my fundamental right to free speech,” the lawyer argued.
The petitioner, in the petition, said she has responded to each and every summons issued by the ED under the PMLA and has also joined the investigation and recorded her statement, and provided necessary documents.
“There is thus nothing on record to suggest that the petitioner was evading the legal process. The respondent no. 2 (ED) has already filed a complaint under the PMLA, 2002, under Section 5 and provisionally attached part of the petitioner’s bank account. The proceedings are now past the stage of inquiry/investigation and are pending before the PMLA Adjudicating Authority in New Delhi, where the petitioner is due to file her reply on or before April 17,” the petition said.
It said she was required to travel abroad to attend the remaining journalistic events scheduled in London and Italy between April 1 and 11.