The Delhi Court on Thursday ruled in favour of Aakar Patel, the chair of Amnesty International India Board, as the court directed CBI to withdraw a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against him for alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act. The court has asked CBI’s director to write a written apology to Patel on behalf of the agency.
On Wednesday, Amnesty International on its website said Indian authorities must immediately lift the arbitrary travel ban imposed on Indian human rights activist and Chair of Amnesty International India Board Aakar Patel.
Delhi court took note that Patel not only monetary loss but also mental harassment as he was not allowed to visit at a scheduled time. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pawan Kumar also passed the order and directed the probe agency to file a compliance report by April 30.
“The applicant can approach the court or other forum for monetary compensation. This court is of the considered opinion that in this case, a written apology from the head of the CBI i.e. Director, CBI acknowledging the lapse on the part of his subordinate, to the applicant 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,” the judge said in a PTI report.
The national capital court observed that Patel had joined the probe once and that there was no other process or warrant issued against him for his appearance.
Further, the court stated that LOC is a deliberate act of the investigating agency to put restrictions on the valuable rights of the accused. It pointed out that if the accused was a flight risk during the investigation or a trial then he would have been held into custody during the investigation.
The court stated in the report that there is an inherent contradiction in the stand taken by CBI, on the one hand, CBI claims that the LOC was got issued as the applicant was a flight risk, and in contradiction to that the accused was not arrested during the investigation and charge sheet was filed without arrest. Adding the court mentioned that CBI also did not explain what precautions or measures were taken during the investigation or at the time of filing the charge sheet to ensure the presence of the accused during the trial.
The UK-based non-governmental organization focused on human rights, Amnesty International, stated that yesterday 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 the 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.
“Denying Aakar’s right to freedom of movement to prevent him from exercising his freedom of expression is an alarming manifestation of the Indian government’s mounting crackdown on human rights defenders and activists. Operating in a climate of harassment, intimidation, interference, and constant surveillance is unacceptable, but has unfortunately become routine for human rights activists in India,” said Kyle Ward, Deputy Secretary-General of Amnesty International.
Ward added, “Imposing travel bans on human rights defenders in India is not new. In the last few years, many human rights activists and journalists have been banned at the last moment from attending international conferences and UN events on the human rights situation in India. This incessant witch-hunt is contrary to India’s international human rights obligations and reflects poorly on its role as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.”
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