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The Delhi High Court today allowed Rana Ayyub, accused of financial frauds over allegations of violation of provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), to travel abroad subject to restrictions.
A bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh stated that the accused may be allowed to travel abroad upon disclosing her itinerary, contact details and upon submission of a certain sum of money.
Her Lawyer, Vrinda Grover told Court that the reason why she is not being allowed to travel is because she is critical of the Government, "speaks truth to power". "This causes discomfort to them and the event I'm speaking at is not something they want me to attend (a Journalist event)."
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju on the other hand stated that the reason why she was not being allowed to leave the country is because of serious allegations against her & that the apprehension is that she will not return.
The Court however allowed Ayyub's writ petition, subject to conditions such as complete disclosure of itinerary to the requisite authorities, including contact number, place of stay as well as deposit of a certain sum.
On Friday, the bench had allowed the Enforcement Directorate to file a status report on the pending investigation(s) against Rana Ayyub, who has been accused of
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating her for donations she raised through an online crowdfunding platform, "Ketto" for Coronavirus pandemic relief work. The ED has alleged that she prepared fake bills claiming relief works were carried out and transferred funds for personal use.
On Friday, ASG SV Rajun had told Court, "This case is Not as simple as what is being portrayed. Rana Ayyub raised funds under garb of covid relief & money running into up to 2 crores. They have been siphoned off. These were received in INR, Dollars. Fake bills were submitted by her in name of relief work. Deposit of 50 lac created for herself by Rana Ayyub & 50 lac was transferred for personal consumption. Look out notice was issued much earlier."
Her lawyer on the other hand argued that her client's rights are being meddled and her right to practice her profession is being put down. "If people are being critical of the state, will they then not allow me to speak? What have they kept me here for?," she said.
Ayyub has claimed that on on March 29, 2022, she "arrived at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport to board Air India flight AI 0131 to London, Heathrow, scheduled to depart at 14:25 hours, to attend events about the global problem of cyber attacks on women journalists, as well as to deliver a keynote speech on the status of journalism in India" and that at around 11:50 hours, her passport and visa were checked by immigration authorities and it was also stamped, but at 12 noon, "she was detained in a room adjacent to the immigration counter". It is stated by Ayyub that her passport was later stamped as "Cancelled" and was not allowed to board her flight.
She further states that "curiously", almost 2 hours later, she was emailed summons under The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (hereinafter referred to as ‘PMLA’) directing her to appear before the Directorate of Enforcement on April 1, 2022.
It is stated in the plea that the summon dated March 29 is a "sham exercise" the information sought in the summon issued to her on March 29 is a "verbatim copy" of the information sought in another summons dated January 25.
"The Petitioner being a journalist who speaks truth to power, is at times perceived to be a source of some discomfort or inconvenience for the government, but that is no ground to deny the Petitioner her right to travel abroad and exercise her freedom of speech and expression, as well as to practise her profession as a journalist," the plea adds.
While thrusting on the fact that "dissenting voices are integral to the democratic society", the plea states that any "mala fide or arbitrary action of the Respondents which unconstitutionally curbs free speech ought to be quashed and set aside by constitutional courts, as held in Priya Parameswaran Pillai vs Union of India and Ors. (2015) SCC OnLine Del 7987".
Case Title: Rana Ayyub Vs. Union of India & Ors.
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