Delhi HC restrains ED from taking further action in Amnesty India funds case
The Delhi high court on Tuesday restrained the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from taking any further action pursuant to the attachment of Amnesty International India’s funds in connection with a money laundering case.
The money laundering case of the ED is based on the November 2019 Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) FIR against Amnesty International India Private Limited (AIIPL), Indians for Amnesty International Trust (IAIT), Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT), and Amnesty International South Asia Foundation (AISAF) in connection with the alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and the Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code (criminal conspiracy).
The ED also froze various bank accounts and fixed deposit accounts of Amnesty International India and Indians for Amnesty International Trust on November 26, 2020.
Justice Rekha Palli, while hearing a petition by the human rights agency to prevent the transfer of attached funds, also directed that a status quo be maintained until the organisation’s appeal against the confirmation of the attachment order is taken by the appellate tribunal, which is currently not functional.
The judge clarified that her order shall “merge” with any order that may be passed by the appellate tribunal subsequently.
“The writ petition is partly allowed by directing that till the appeal and the stay application are taken up by the appellate tribunal, parties will maintain status quo. Consequently, the respondent (Enforcement Directorate) will remain restrained from taking action pursuant to the impugned order. This order will merge with any order passed by the appellate tribunal,” justice Palli said.
Similar directions were passed by the judge on a petition against the confirmation of a provisional attachment order against the Indians for Amnesty International Trust.
The order was passed after the two petitioners stated that while they have preferred a statutory appeal against the confirmation of the attachment order, passed by the adjudicating authority, the same is unlikely to be taken up on account of the appellate tribunal being non-functional.
The judge noted that the petitioners’ claim about the status of the appellate tribunal was not disputed by the lawyer appearing for ED, Amit Mahajan.
In its petition filed through lawyer Arshdeep Singh, Amnesty International India stated that on August 6, the adjudicating authority confirmed the attachment of its fixed deposits and certain bank accounts, which were provisionally attached earlier this year pursuant to a money laundering case being probed by the ED.
It said since April, all matters before the appellate tribunal are being re-notified en bloc after the expiry of the tenure of its acting chairman and therefore, there was an apprehension that the appeal would be rendered infructuous.
In a scenario where the Centre has not issued any notification for the appointment of a chairman and/or members, the functioning of the appellate tribunal is likely to remain suspended for an indefinite period of time, the petition said.
Amnesty International India also said that while conforming to the provisional attachment order, the adjudicating authority not only acted in blatant violation of the principles of natural justice but also overlooked the complete “non-application of mind” by ED officials.