The Delhi High Court Monday set aside a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) preventing noted journalist Rana Ayyub from traveling abroad. The LOC was issued over allegations of misappropriated money raised through crowdfunding for COVID-19 relief work.
Ayyub was detained by the Bureau of Immigration at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport last Tuesday on her way to a journalists’ conference in London. Her immigration stamp was canceled and the ED thereafter issued a summons requiring her appearance last Friday.
Ayyub’s lawyer argued before the court that the summons was issued in haste to prevent her from attending the event. Her lawyer further argued that Ayyub is “a globally renowned journalist and is being persecuted for speaking truth to power and being critical of the incumbent establishment.”
The ED countered that their previous summons to Ayyub were ignored, that she was withholding documents requested by the agencies and that allowing her to leave the country would delay their investigation of her.
The Delhi high court noted that an LOC is a “coercive measure” that interferes with the individual’s right to personal liberty and movement. In this case, the LOC also infringed her right to freedom of speech and expression. The court found no reason necessitating the LOC since Ayyub had appeared on each date of summoning by the authorities.
Ayyub has previously stated to the press, “The smear campaign against me will not deter me from my professional commitment to continue to do my work as a journalist, and especially to raise critical issues and ask inconvenient questions, as is my duty as a journalist in a constitutional democracy.”
In February, UN-appointed independent rights experts issued a statement denouncing “relentless misogynistic and sectarian attacks” against Ayyub and called for a thorough investigation of the attacks against her.