A Special Central Bureau of Investigation court on Friday asked Amnesty International India chair Aakar Patel not to leave India without permission, reported Bar and Bench.

The order came on a revision plea filed by the CBI after a Delhi court had asked the agency on Thursday to withdraw the look-out notice issued against Patel.

On Wednesday, Patel was stopped from travelling to the United States from the Bengaluru airport. In a series of tweets, he said he was informed by immigration officials that he had been put on the exit control list by the CBI.

Patel on Thursday morning moved a Delhi court, which directed the CBI director to issue a written apology to Patel acknowledging the lapse on part of his subordinate.

However, Patel was again stopped from travelling abroad on Thursday evening as the Central Bureau of Investigation had not withdrawn the look-out circular. On Friday morning, he filed a separate plea in a Delhi court, seeking action against CBI’s investigation officer for not complying with the Thursday order.

At Friday’s hearing, Special CBI court judge Santosh Snehi Mann also stayed the Delhi court’s order asking the CBI director to issue an written apology to Patel.

“There has to be a reasonable time to a party, who feels that the order isn’t favourable to approach the authority,” the judge said, according to Live Law. “The remedy is there.”

The court will now take up the matter on April 12.

At the hearing, CBI counsel Nikhil Goel argued that the Delhi court had incorrectly interpreted the right of the central agency to issue the look-out notice.

He argued that the Delhi court judge seemed to suggest that if the accused person has not been arrested during investigation, a look-out notice cannot be issued. However, the CBI’s investigating officer issued the notice on its “subjective assessment” and that cannot be interfered with, the counsel said.

On the judge’s order for apology, Goel said that the central agency has been fair in its investigation and filed a chargesheet in the case.

“There was no material to say that someone was biased without which the finding shouldn’t have come...to say that we did it deliberately,” he said. “Court has not even applied mind, proceedings [in the case against Amnesty International India] before court have not begun, that stage has not come.”

The CBI counsel also said that it was Patel’s second attempt to leave the country without giving the agency the time to approach the court.

Advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir, appearing for Patel, argued that the investigating officer was informed in the Delhi court that Patel would leave by midnight.

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Stopping Aakar Patel from travelling abroad was illegal and reprehensible, says human rights body

Look-out notice against Patel

On Wednesday, Patel had tweeted that a CBI officer had called him to say that the look-out notice was issued as the Narendra Modi government had filed a case against Amnesty International India.

The organisation has been accused of money laundering and criminal conspiracy in a case filed by the CBI. Amnesty International India has vehemently denied the allegations.

The central agency has said that the Amnesty International India Foundation Trust was given permission during 2011-’12 for receiving foreign contributions from the Amnesty International-United Kingdom. However, it was cancelled following adverse inputs received from security agencies.

The agency alleged that the Indians for Amnesty International Trust and the Amnesty International India Private Limited were then formed in 2012-’13 and 2013-’14 to “escape the FCRA [Foreign Contribution Regulation Act] route”.

In September 2020, the human rights organisation said it was forced to shut its operations as the Indian government had frozen its bank accounts. The group had said its “lawful fundraising model” was being portrayed as money laundering because Amnesty India had challenged the “government’s grave inactions and excesses”.

The Centre had called the allegations against it unfortunate, exaggerated and “far from the truth”. Amnesty’s “glossy statements” about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power were nothing but a “ploy to divert attention” from their activities, which were in “clear contravention” of Indian laws, the government had said.