A special court in Delhi on Saturday upheld a magistrate court order directing the Central Bureau of Investigation to withdraw the look-out circular issued against Amnesty International India chair Aakar Patel, Live Law reported.

The court noted that the look-out notice showed a “lack of understanding” of the law on the CBI’s part. It added that CBI’s power to investigate and prosecute was not unbridled.

Patel had moved court after being stopped at the Bengaluru airport from travelling to the United States on April 6. Immigration officials had told him that the CBI had put him on the exit control list, which prevents a citizen from leaving a country, Patel had written in a tweet.

The Amnesty International India has been accused of money laundering under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. The central agency had told the court that the look-out notice was issued because there was a time gap between completing the investigation and taking cognisance of the matter by a court due to a provision under Section 40 of the FCRA.

The section states that a court cannot take cognisance of any offence under the Act without receiving a sanction from the central government.

On April 7, a magistrate’s court had asked the agency to withdraw the look-out circular against Patel. Following the order, Patel had tried to travel abroad on April 7 but he was stopped as the CBI had not withdrawn the look-out circular.

A day later, he had filed a separate plea in a Delhi court, seeking action against the central agency’s investigation officer for not complying with the magistrate’s order. At the same time, the central agency filed the revision plea against the magistrate’s order.

At Saturday’s hearing, Special Central Bureau of Investigation Judge Santosh Snehi Mann upheld the magistrate court’s order.

“The manner in which LOC [look out-circular] has been issued by the CBI shows lack of understanding of the relevant law,” the judge noted, according to Live Law. “...Need for orientation of the concerned officers of CBI, not only for sensitization but also to bring objectivity in the actions, is not out of context.”

The judge imposed conditions that Patel will have to appear before the magistrate’s court within a week, and that he will not be allowed to leave the country without its permission.

Mann also set aside the magistrate court’s order asking the CBI director to make a written apology to Patel for the agency’s “deliberate actions”.

“LOC was issued on wrong interpretation and understanding of law, and not out of any malice or ill will,” the court said.