Monday, Aug 15, 2022

Delhi Court Asks Former Amnesty India Chief Aakar Patel To Not Leave India Without Permission

Former Amnesty India head Aakar Patel has been asked by a Delhi court to not leave the country without permission.

Former Amnesty India chief Aakar Patel
Former Amnesty India chief Aakar Patel PTI

A Delhi court on Friday directed the chair of Amnesty International India Board Aakar Patel not to leave the country without its prior permission and stayed an order directing the CBI to withdraw a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against him in a case relating to the alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).

Special Judge Santosh Snehi Mann passed the order on a petition filed by the CBI seeking revision of the order passed on Thursday by a magisterial court which also asked the agency to apologise to Patel.

The judge said it was necessary that due opportunity was given to Patel to file a formal reply if any to CBI's revision application.

“In the meantime, it is necessary that the cause is not frustrated. During the course of arguments, it was pointed out by Nikhil Goel (advocate for the CBI) that respondent made an attempt to leave the country yesterday,” the court said.

It stayed the operation of the order passed by the trial court on Thursday regarding the direction to the CBI director for compliance with regards to the observations made in the order regarding "written apology."

In the order, the court said “this is also with regard to the condition that respondent (Patel) will not leave the country without the permission of this court. Put up for reply and arguments next week.” 

The court posted the matter for further proceedings on April 12.

Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) Pawan Kumar on Thursday passed the order and directed the probe agency to withdraw the LOC immediately, apologise to the activist and file a compliance report by April 30.

Patel, meanwhile, was stopped again last night at an airport and was informed that the CBI had not withdrawn the LOC.

The court had noted that apart from the monetary loss, the applicant had suffered mental harassment as he was not allowed to visit at the scheduled time.

“The applicant can approach the court or other forum for the monetary compensation. This court is of the considered opinion that in this case, a written apology from the head of the CBI ie. 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 ACMM had said.

Patel's application had further sought the court's permission to visit the US to take up his foreign assignment and lecture series organised by various universities till May 30.

It had submitted that Patel was stopped by immigration authorities at the Bangalore International Airport on Wednesday while he was boarding a flight to the US.

The application claimed that the action was taken despite an order by a Gujarat court granting him permission to travel abroad.

Amnesty previously halted operations in India owing to Government's 'Witch-Hunting'

After the Indian government froze its bank accounts without any prior warning, Amnesty International was forced to shut down operations in India and lay off all 140 staffs. 

Following publication of two reports by Amnesty India which strongly criticized the government’s human rights record, the federal investigative agency Enforcement Directorate (ED) froze all the accounts of Amnesty’s Indian arm. 

Amnestry later stated that the move was the culmination of a two-year campaign of harassment spearheaded by the home affairs ministry for alleged money laundering, and even more importantly, it was a part of an “incessant witch-hunt” of human rights groups carried out by the Modi regime.

According to Avinash Kumar, the executive director of Amnesty International India, “Treating human rights organisations like criminal enterprises and dissenting individuals as criminals without any credible evidence is a deliberate attempt by the enforcement directorate and government of India to stoke a climate of fear and dismantle the critical voices in India.”

Amnesty denied all charges involving financial misconduct and affirmed that they functioned staying within all the Indian and international legal obligations.

(With PTI Inputs)