Journalist Rana Ayyub has moved the Delhi High Court challenging a Enforcement Directorate notice that restrained her from travelling abroad, Live Law reported on Thursday.

Ayyub’s counsel sought an early hearing from Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla, saying that the journalist has to travel to London and Italy due to her prior commitments. He added that her flight leaves on Friday.

The judges told the 37-year-old journalist’s counsel that the matter will be listed for hearing on Friday if the case is filed before 11 am today.

Ayyub, an outspoken critic of the Modi government and columnist for The Washington Post, was on Tuesday stopped at the Mumbai airport from boarding a flight to London because the Enforcement Directorate had issued a lookout notice for her.

In February, media reports had said that the Enforcement Directorate has attached over Rs 1.77-crore worth of Ayyub’s bank deposits in connection with a “money-laundering investigation” after the journalist started a fund-raising campaign to provide food and other relief to people struggling because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Ayyub told that she had an event on April 1 with some of the top jurors, editors and diplomats in London. She was scheduled to speak about intimidation of journalists.

On the same day, she was to speak at The Guardian’s office at the invitation of the newspaper’s editor Katharine Viner. Then on April 6 and 7, she was to be in Italy to attend an event called the International Journalism Festival.

On Twitter, Ayyub had written that she had publicised her trips on social media but the Enforcement Directorate issued summons via email an hour after she reached the airport.

Ayyub had said that she had already submitted all relevant documents to the Enforcement Directorate. She said that she had been issued a showcause notice for which she had been given a month to reply.

“Not a single summons from the ED, the last being the 1st week of January was received by me till an hour before my flight today,” Ayyub had said. “And each summons was honoured and documents submitted.”

Press bodies condemn move

Several journalists and press bodies, including the International Center for Journalists, have condemned the central agency’s move.

Julie Posetti, the global director of research at the International Center for Journalists, told Al Jazeera that Indian authorities were trying to criminalise Ayyub’s journalism practice. Posetti is Ayyub’s co-speaker at the event in London.

“They are now seeking to restrict her movement as well as her journalism and her press freedom advocacy as a direct response to her critical reporting of the [Narendra] Modi government and far-right Hindu nationalism,” she told the news channel.

Founding Editor of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan, described the Enforcement Directorate’s actions as “disgusting harassment”. He said the central agency’s move proved the point about the “state of Indian democracy”.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders had said the travel restrictions were “the latest example of growing pressure” against Ayyub. It called for immediately lifting the travel restrictions.

ED case against Rana Ayyub

The Enforcement Directorate’s agency’s case is based on a first information report filed by the Uttar Pradesh Police in September.

A Hindutva group called the Hindu IT Cell had filed a complaint against Ayyub alleging that she had illegally collected money through the online fundraising platform Ketto “in the name of charity”. The complaint had alleged that the journalist received foreign funds without government approval.

Agency officials had told PTI that Ayyub raised Rs 2,69,44,680 on Ketto. The Enforcement Directorate had also claimed that she created a fixed deposit of Rs 50 lakh from the funds she had raised but did not use for relief work.

According to a report published by PTI, the Enforcement Directorate had issued a provisional order “to attach a Rs 50-lakh worth fixed deposit and the rest amount kept as bank deposits and held in two accounts of a private bank in Navi Mumbai”.

Ayyub had described the allegations as “preposterous, wholly mala fide and belied by record”. They are based on “an intentional misreading of her bank statements”, the journalist had said.

She had said her personal bank account could not be used as Ketto required a physical copy of her permanent account number, or PAN card, to be furnished immediately. The document was unavailable at the time, Ayyub had said.

“In these circumstances, as I thought that aid to Covid-19 ravaged families should not be delayed, I gave Ketto the details and documents relating to my father and sister’s bank accounts,” she had said.

The journalist had added that she received no foreign contributions as defined under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.