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Aakar Patel, ex-Amnesty India chief can’t leave country without permission: Court

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: A Delhi court has ordered Aakar Patel, the former head of Amnesty India, not to leave the country without permission. The court also put on hold yesterday’s judgement for the CBI to “immediately” hand over a written apology to the writer-activist who was denied entry to the United States.

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The CBI filed a case in the Delhi sessions court yesterday, appealing a special court’s judgement granting relief to Aakar Patel, who had moved the court after being barred from travelling to the United States on Wednesday.

The case will be taken up again next Tuesday.

Effectively, Mr Patel can’t go abroad for now and will not get any apology from the CBI.

Separately, Mr Patel sued the CBI for contempt after being barred from travelling to the US again last night, despite a court ruling dismissing the watch circular – or airport warning – against him the day before. This was the second time he had been denied boarding on a flight to the United States this week.

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Notably, a lookout circular is an alert issued by law enforcement agencies to airport and seaport officials to prevent anyone wanted from leaving the country.

In his petition, Mr Patel said, “It is far from believable that an agency like CBI which is supposed to be available twenty four seven, being a law enforcement agency conveniently chose to sleep on the order of the Hon’ble Court despite the word ‘immediately’ used by the Hon’ble Court and being aware of the fact that the applicant was travelling at night on 07.04.2022.”

The officer being unavailable “leaves no manner of doubt that (the CBI) deliberately and wilfully decided to not give effect to the order,” Mr Patel said.

The writer-activist said he had informed the CBI that he had to leave at 11 pm on Thursday. A CBI source said the special court’s order came around 4.30 pm yesterday and that the agency had been given 24 hours to comply with it.

CBI sources had told NDTV that they would challenge the special court’s relief to Mr Patel.

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Mr Patel tweeted that despite the court’s order, he was stopped at Bengaluru airport again. “Have been stopped at immigration again. CBI has not taken me off their lookout circular,” read his post.

A second tweet read, “Immigration at Bangalore airport says nobody at CBI answering their calls”.

Yesterday, a special court had ordered the CBI to give Mr Patel a written apology in view of the “mental harassment”.

Mr Patel had told the court that he was apparently on an “exit control list” because of a Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) case against Amnesty International. This happened even after he got his passport back and the go ahead from a court specifically for a trip to the US between March 1 and May 30.

The agency, however, said the clearance for travel came from a Gujarat court in a case registered by the Gujarat police. The airport alert, the agency said, was in connection with a CBI case against Amnesty International India and others for alleged violations linked to foreign funding.

The Special Court in Delhi strongly criticised the agency, saying a lookout circular should not have been issued “merely on the basis of apprehensions arising out of whims and fancies of the investigating agency”.

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