InCRL.M.C. 5012/2023 -DEL HC- Acknowledging remote business operations in digital era, Delhi High Court denies accused’s request to travel abroad in money laundering case
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma [31-10-2023]


Read Order: Jai Prakash Singhal V. Directorate of Enforcement


Chahat Varma


New Delhi, November 17, 2023: The Delhi High Court has rejected the plea of a man accused in a money laundering case seeking to travel abroad. The rejection was based on the ongoing investigation and the lack of sufficient reasons for overseas travel.


The present petition under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C.), was sought to set aside a common order dated 08.07.2023 passed by the Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) in ECIR registered by the Directorate of Enforcement, and FIR registered at Police Station Special Cell (EOW). The FIR was filed under Sections 419/420/120B/384/386 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and under Section 3/4 of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA).


The petitioner, Jai Prakash Singhal’s grievance was that the ASJ, in an order dated 08.07.2023, dismissed the application filed by him, seeking permission to travel abroad to Dubai for 30 days to appoint a responsible person to look after his business. The petitioner prayed for setting aside the impugned order and granting permission to travel abroad for the stated purpose.


Strongly opposing the present petitions, the counsel for the Directorate of Enforcement asserted that an LOC already existed, issued by both the ED and the Income Tax Department, and it had not been cancelled. The argument presented was that the petitioner, identified as an international hawala operator based in Dubai, facilitated the main accused Sukash Chandrashekhar in transferring Rs. 24 crore to Dubai. It was claimed that the petitioner lacked roots in India, posed a flight risk, and that the application seeking the cancellation of bail granted to him was awaiting adjudication, scheduled for 09.01.2024.


The single-judge bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma noted that although it was undisputed that the proclamation issued under Section 82 of Cr.P.C. regarding the present FIR was revoked by the order dated 10.04.2023, and the petitioner was granted anticipatory bail on 20.04.2023, one of the conditions attached to the anticipatory bail was that he would not leave the country without the Court's permission. Therefore, the anticipatory bail granted was subject to this condition, and the petitioner, in compliance, returned to India. Further, the State/EOW cancelled the LOC, but the Directorate of Enforcement maintained its LOC, alongside another LOC by the Income Tax Department. Even when granting regular bail in the ECIR case, the ASJ imposed the condition that the petitioner must seek prior permission from the Court before traveling abroad.


The bench acknowledged that the investigation against the petitioner was still ongoing in both cases, the one registered by the Special Cell (EOW) and the other by the Directorate of Enforcement. It emphasized that the right to travel abroad, protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, was not absolute but subject to reasonable restrictions. The bench supported the ASJ's decision that the petitioner had failed to provide sufficient reasons for his overseas travel, noting the absence of a permanent address for the petitioner in Dubai. The bench also highlighted the petitioner's ability to operate his business remotely in the digital age and delegate responsibilities to his major son already managing the business in Dubai.


Thus, considering the aforementioned facts and circumstances of the case, the Court found no reason to interfere with the impugned order dated 08.07.2023 passed by the ASJ. Accordingly, the present petition was dismissed.

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