Look Out Circular prohibiting travel abroad: Validity of

Conditions for Invocation of LOC:

Q. What are the categories of cases in which the investigating agency can seek recourse of Look- out-Circular and under what circumstances?

Ans. Recourse to LOC can be taken by investigating agency in cognizable offences under IPC or other penal laws, where the accused was deliberately evading arrest or not appearing in the trial court despite NBWs and other coercive measures and there was likelihood of the accused leaving the country to evade trial/arrest.

Q. What procedure is required to be followed by the investigating agency before opening a Look-out-circular?

Ans. The Investigating Officer shall make a written request for LOC to the officer as notified by the circular of Ministry of Home Affairs, giving details & reasons for seeking LOC. The competent officer alone shall give directions for opening LOC by passing an order in this respect.

Q. What is the remedy available to the person against whom such Look-out-Circular has been opened?

Ans. The person against whom LOC is issued must join investigation by appearing before I.O. or should surrender before the court concerned or should satisfy the court that LOC was wrongly issued against him. He may also approach the officer who ordered issuance of LOC & explain that LOC was wrongly issued against him. LOC can be withdrawn by the authority that issued and can also be rescinded by the trial court where case is pending or having jurisdiction over concerned police station on an application by the person concerned.

Q. What is the role of the concerned Court when such a case is brought before it and under what circumstances, the subordinate courts can intervene?

Ans. LOC is a coercive measure to make a person surrender to the investigating agency or Court of law. The subordinate courts’ jurisdiction in affirming or cancelling LOC is commensurate with the jurisdiction of cancellation of NBWs or affirming NBWs.

[Source: Court On Its Own Motion vs State V. Gurnek Singh Etc. decided on 11 August, 2010 by Delhi High Court.]

Download full judgement here.

Relying on above observations, it has been held in a recent case filed by Rana Ayyub, as under:

In the particular facts of the case, it becomes evident that the LOC was issued in haste and despite the absence of any precondition necessitating such a measure. An LOC is a coercive measure to make a person surrender and consequentially interferes with petitioner’s right of personal liberty and free movement. It is to be issued in cases where the accused is deliberately evading summons/arrest or where such person fails to appear in Court despite a Non-Bailable Warrant. In the instant case, there is no contradiction by the respondent to the submission of the petitioner that she has appeared on each and every date before the Investigating Agency when summoned, and hence, there is no cogent reason for presuming that the Petitioner would not appear before the Investigation Agency and hence, no case is made out for issuing the impugned LOC.

The impugned LOC is accordingly liable to be set aside as being devoid of merits as well as for infringing the Human right of the Petitioner to travel abroad and to exercise her freedom of speech and expression. For the reasons discussed above, the impugned LOC is set aside and quashed.

[Source: Rana Ayyub vs. Union of India, WP (crl) 714 of 2022 decided on 04.04.2022 by Delhi High Court]

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