New Delhi, Jun 11: A look out circular (LOC)should to be used only when a person is evading investigation as it seriously affects the fundamental rights of a citizen who is restrained from travelling, the Delhi High Court has said.
The ruling by the high court came while allowing a former Punjab National Bank CMD to return to the UK after being restrained here for more than a year in connection with two CBI cases, including the one against Kingfisher Airlines.
The court said: “The instrument of a LOC is only to be used in an urgent situation where a person is found to have been evading the process of investigation. The investigating agency must be circumspect in using this instrument, as it seriously affects the fundamental rights of the citizen, who is restrained from travelling.”
The court allowed K C Chakrabarty, also the former Deputy Governor of RBI who now lives in the United Kingdom, to return to his family subject to his depositing a fixed deposit receipt of Rs 1 crore with the Registrar General of Delhi High Court and undertaking to return within five weeks from his departure.
He also has to give a surety bond of one person.
“Subject to the petitioner (Chakrabarty) completing the aforesaid conditions, the Immigration authorities shall not create any impediment to the petitioner in travelling overseas for a period of five weeks,” the court said.
In view of the court’s order, Chakrabarty decided not to press his plea challenging the LOC.
It issued the direction after noting that that “there was no urgent requirement for the petitioner to be confined in this country.”
The court said that this was obvious from that fact that the investigating agency had not interacted with him for the past more than seven months.
“Even after being restrained from leaving the country and returning home, for over a year, the petitioner is not an accused in any of the cases. As noticed above, no charge sheet has been filed by the CBI,” it also said.
The court said that in the facts of the case, Chakrabarty cannot be stopped from leaving this country by using the instrument of an LOC.
Chakrabarty had served as Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of the PNB from the 2007-2009 and was Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India from June 2009 to April 2014.
He had arrived in India in April last year after receiving an email from CBI to appear before it in connection with certain investigations.
After his arrival he had appeared before CBI twice in April 2018 and when he tried to return to UK in May 2018, he was prevented from boarding the flight and was informed that there was an LOC against him.
Thereafter, he was examined thrice more by CBI and after June last year, he was not called again by the agency, the high court noted in its order.
However, when he made representations to CBI to cancel the LOC, the agency rejected them and when he moved a trial court for permission to travel abroad, the relief was denied after the agency said he was a suspect. Subsequently, he moved the high court.
The Centre had opposed his plea challenging the LOC by claiming there were two criminal cases in which he may have been involved and his involvement was being investigated.
The government had said that although there was no charge sheet filed against him, he is likely to abscond from the country.
It had also alleged that he had exerted personal influence over other bank officials to grant facilities to undeserving borrowers, thereby causing wrongful loss to the banks and wrongful gain to the persons accused.
One of the cases in connection with which he was questioned by CBI was a Rs 41.30 crore bank fraud involving a tours and travel firm — Airworth Travels and Tours Private Limited — its promoters and “unnamed public servants”.
The case has been registered for alleged criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and fabrication of documents against Gaurav Mehra and Sonila Mehra, both directors of Airworth Travels and Tours Private Limited, and unknown officials of Indian Overseas Bank.
According to CBI, the accused persons had hatched a criminal conspiracy and siphoned off sanctioned credit limit and bank guarantee by submitting fabricated financial statements for availing these facilities and the duo allegedly submitted false account books, debit statements and induced Indian Overseas Bank’s officials to disburse the funds to the tune of Rs 41.30 crore during 2009-13, which became non-performing assets in 2014.