The Bombay high court will decide on the validity of at least eight circulars/ Office Memoranda (OM) issued by the Central Government regarding the guidelines for issuance of Look Out Circulars (LOC) in respect of Indian citizens and foreigners.
A division bench of justices Gautam Patel and Madhav Jamdar clubbed a bunch of petitions challenging the issuance of LOCs issued by the Government of India, Bureau of Immigration, Ministry of Home Affairs.
The LOCs entitles the immigration authorities at any port of departure to prevent a person from travelling outside India.
The LOCs are issued pursuant to a series of circulars or OMs with the first such circular issued on October 27, 2010. Periodically, these circulars/OMs are amended.
One such amended circular which has been challenged was issued in September 2018 under which “economic interest of India” can be a ground for issuance of LOC. This would restrain a person from travelling if the departure of such person could be detrimental to the economic interest of the country.
Another amendment was carried out in October 2018, by which the Chairman, State Bank of India/ Managing Director and Chief Executive Officers of all other public sector banks may also request the Immigration Authorities to issue LOCs.
Senior advocate Birendra Saraf and advocate Karl Tamboly, counsel for some of the petitioners, argued that the LOCs were issued to restrain people from travelling abroad because an individual or a corporate entity was indebted to some public sector bank.
The counsels argued that the words “economic interest of India” cannot be equated to “financial interests” of any bank. Financial concerns of any bank, whether public sector or otherwise, is not equitable to the “economic interests of India”.
Refuting the arguments, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh appearing for the Central government, said that each bank was expected to justify its actions when requesting a LOC.
He further argued that at the most, some of the LOCs could be quashed, but the validity of the circulars or OMs cannot be questioned merely on the basis of a wrong request by a particular bank in a particular case. Besides, OMs are wider in concept and address concerns regarding security, sovereignty, terrorism and other national interest of the country, argued Singh.
The HC had kept the petitions for hearing on February 4, 2022.
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