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Look Out Circular

Context:

Recently, the Punjab and Haryana High Court while quashing a Look Out Circular (LOC) against petitioner Noor Paul passed omnibus instructions to the respondents including the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Bureau of Immigration (BOI) to serve a copy of the LOC to the affected person, state the reasons for issuing the LOC “as soon as possible” and provide a “post-decisional opportunity”.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why in News?
  2. What is Look out notice?
  3. Who can issue an LOC?
  4. What are the details required to generate an LOC and who issues it?
  5. Is there any other clause under which an individual can be stopped?

Why in News?

  • The Punjab and Haryana High Court passed omnibus instructions to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Bureau of Immigration (BOI) to serve a copy of an issued LOC to the affected person, state the reasons for issuing the LOC and provide a “post-decisional opportunity”.
    • It asked the MHA to include these directions into the “Official Memorandum” or the guidelines that govern the opening of LOCs.
  • The Government of India moved Supreme Court and the apex court stayed the particular paragraph of the High Court order.
  • The High Court in its judgement has said that the action of the Bank of India to issue an LOC against Ms. Paul who was a guarantor to a loan procured by her father was “arbitrary, illegal and violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.”
  • Ms. Paul got to know about the LOC when she was turned away from the Delhi airport on February 22 when she was there to travel to Dubai.

What is Look out notice?

  • An LOC is issued to make sure that an individual who is absconding or wanted by law enforcement agencies is not able to leave the country.
  •  It is mostly used at immigration checkpoints at international airports and seaports by the immigration branch.
  • In certain cases, the police can approach a court asking for the restriction of a person’s movement outside the country, when that person is a suspect and there is an apprehension that they may not join the investigation at a later stage.
  • The subject of an LOC can challenge the circular and get relief from a court.

Who can issue an LOC?

  • An LOC can be initiated by a large number of authorised officers, including an officer not below the rank of deputy secretary, an officer not below the rank of joint secretary in the state government, a district magistrate or superintendent of police, designated officers of various law enforcing and security agencies, a designated officer of Interpol, an officer not below the rank of additional director in the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
  • In 2018, the government also empowered the heads of public sector banks to directly request the authorities to issue an LOC against wilful defaulters to prevent them from leaving the country.
  • So now, an officer not below the rank of chairman/managing director/chief executive of any public sector bank can make a request.
  • An LOC can be modified/deleted/withdrawn by the Bureau of Immigration only on the specific request of the authorised originator on whose request the LOC was issued.

What are the details required to generate an LOC and who issues it?

  • According to a 2010 official memorandum of the Ministry, details such as First Information Report (FIR) number, court case number are to be mandatorily provided with name, passport number and other details.
  • The BOI (Bureau of Immigration) under the MHA is only the executing agency.
  • They generate LOCs based on requests by different agencies.
  •  Since immigration posts are manned by the BOI officials they are the first responders to execute LOCs by stopping or detaining or informing about an individual to the issuing agency.
  • The LOCs can be modified; deleted or withdrawn only at the request of the originator.
  • Further, the legal liability of the action taken by immigration authorities in pursuance of LOC rests with the originating agency.

Is there any other clause under which an individual can be stopped?

  • The 2010 Ministry guidelines give sweeping powers to police and intelligence agencies to generate LOCs in “exceptional cases” without keying in complete parameters or case details against “suspects, terrorists, anti-national elements, etc, in larger national interest.”
  •  In 2015, Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai was stopped from travelling to London on a request by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) based on the “etc” provision in the 2010 order.
    • The LOC was later quashed by the Delhi High Court.
  • After the special status of J&K under Article 370 of the Constitutions was read down by the Parliament in August 2019, LOCs were opened against several politicians, human rights activists, journalists and social activists to bar them from flying out of the country.
    • The number of persons and the crime for which they have been placed under the list is unknown.

-Source: The Hindu

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September 2022
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