Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

What are Look Out Circulars (LOCs)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Look Out Circular

Mains level : National security imperative

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that a Look Out Circular (LOC), which prevents one from travelling abroad, must be supplied to the person at the time of being stopped at the airport and that the reasons should be communicated to the affected party.

What is a Look Out Circular?

  • It is a notice to stop any individual wanted by the police, investigating agency or even a bank from leaving or entering the country through designated land, air and sea ports.
  • Immigration is tasked to stop any such individual against whom such a notice exists from leaving or entering the country.
  • There are 86 immigration check posts across the country.

Who can issue LOCs?

  • A large number of agencies which includes the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Income Tax, State police and intelligence agencies are authorised to generate LOCs.
  • The officer should not be below the rank of a district magistrate or superintendent of police or a deputy secretary in the Union Government.

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 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  • The LOCs can be modified; deleted or withdrawn only at the request of the originator.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.

How are banks authorized?

  • After several businessmen including liquor baron Vijay Mallya, businessmen Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi fled the country after defaulting on loans, the MHA in 2018 brought changes to the 2010 guidelines.
  • It authorised the chairman, managing director and chief executives of all public sector banks to generate LOCs against persons who could be detrimental to economic interests of the country.

Is there any other clause under which any 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.
  • This was against suspects, terrorists, anti-national elements, etc. in larger national interest.
  • After the special status of J&K under Article 370 was abrogated in 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.

Are individuals entitled to any remedial measures?

  • Many citizens have moved courts to get the LOC quashed.
  • As per norms, an LOC will stay valid for a maximum period of 12 months and if there is no fresh request from the agency then it will not be automatically revived.
  • The MHA has asserted that LOCs cannot be shown to the subject at the time of detention nor can any prior intimation be provided.
  • The Ministry recently informed the Punjab and Haryana HC that the LOC guidelines are a secret document and the same cannot be shared with the ‘accused’ or any unauthorised stakeholder.
  • It cannot be provided or shown to the subject at the time of detention by the BOI since it defeats the purpose of LOC and no accused or subject of LOC can be provided any opportunity of hearing before the issuance of the LOC.

Precedence set by the Judiciary

  • In January this year, Delhi HC quashed an LOC against a Delhi businessman generated at the instance of the Income Tax department.
  • The court said no proceedings under any penal law had been initiated against the petitioner” and the LOC was “wholly unsustainable.”
  • It said that there cannot be any unfettered control or restriction on the right to travel and that it was part of the fundamental rights.
  • Delhi HC has also asked the Director of the CBI to tender a written apology.

 

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