NEW DELHI: A special CBI court on Saturday upheld a trial court’s order directing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to withdraw the lookout circular (LOC) against former Amnesty International India chief Aakar Patel.
However, the court set aside the direction issued to the CBI director to tender a written apology to Patel for the agency’s action against him.
The court of Special Judge Santosh Snehi Mann, in its order, ruled that the LOC was “wrongly” issued against Patel, but said the circular was not issued “out of any malice or ill will”.
He was stopped by immigration authorities at Bengaluru International Airport on April 6 and 7 from flying to the United States.
“So observation of the ACMM (Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate) about the right of the accused to file a claim for compensation is not out of context… Whether Patel would be held entitled to get compensation would be a subject matter of a separate independent trial before the court of competent jurisdiction,” the court observed.
It also noted that the power of the CBI to investigate and prosecute is not an unbridled. “In glaring cases of excesses committed in actions, there may arise the need for fixing accountability. In the present case, LOC was issued on wrong interpretation and understanding of law, and not out of any malice or ill will. Hence, it is not a fit case to call for fixing the accountability for issuance of LOC,” the order read.
Mental harassment will be a component for consideration by the court for determination of compensation, the court noted.
“Since determination of the compensation was not a subject matter before the Trial Court, there was no scope to venture into the aspect of ‘Mental Harassment’. Therefore direction of the Trial Court to the Director, CBI to give written apology to the respondent accused, acknowledging the lapse on the part of his subordinate, to compensate for mental harassment, cannot sustain and is liable to be set-aside,” it said.
After being stopped for the second time at the airport, Patel had claimed he lost Rs 6 lakh due to non-compliance with the April 7 court order that asked the agency to withdraw the LOC, and had filed a contempt plea on April 8.
The same day CBI challenged the earlier order allowing Patel to leave and directing an apology by the agency.
The Special judge had stayed the observation on the apology and asked Patel not to leave the country without the court’s permission.
The LOC against Patel was issued in connection with alleged violations of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA) case on December 31, 2021 on charges that Amnesty International-UK and some other entities based in the UK sent funds to Amnesty India allegedly via commercial channels.