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C Sivasankaran, founder of the now defunct Aircel mobile network company, has moved the Madras High Court challenging a Look out Circular (LOC) issued against him by the Bureau of Immigration on a request by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Justice AD Jagdish Chandira has issued notice in the matter after admitting it on Tuesday. The Court has asked the Union Home Ministry, the CBI and the ED to file their responses within two weeks.
The LOC was issued in relation to a case of fraud entailing over Rs 600 crores worth loss for the IDBI Bank. It stems from loans extended by top officials at IDBI in violation of external guidelines and norms to two companies i.e. Win Wind Oy and Axcel Sunshine Limited.
After a loan worth Rs 393 crores extended to Win Wind Oy was declared a Non Performing Asset (NPA), IDBI is said to have further disbursed another loan worth Rs 530 crores to Axcel Sunshine Limited. Both companies are said to be part of the Siva Group of companies. An FIR in the case was lodged in October 2017 on the Chief Vigilance Officer’s directions.
However, in his affidavit, Sivasankaran has contended that his name has been wrongly included in the FIR filed in the case, and that the LOC would disrupt his obligations as Ambassador-at-Large of the Republic of Seychelles. As per his affidavit, Sivasankaran is a national of Seychelles and has been a diplomat of the country since 2008.
“… the Petitioner is entitled to the attendant privileges and rights concomitant with his position as a foreign ambassador/diplomat“, states the affidavit
Further, it contends,
“… the erroneous inclusion of Petitioner’s name in the FIR has caused untold damage to the Petitioner’s reputation and to the diplomatic relationship between Seychelles and India.”
As per Sivasankaran, his name has been wrongly included in the FIR as the Chairman of the Siva Group of companies. It is submitted that he had ceased to be the director of the Siva Group from 2008 onwards. Further, he has denied any association with Axcel Sunshine.
All the same, in August 2018 Sivasankaran was informed for the first time that an LOC had been issued against him after he landed at the Chennai airport. After a meeting with a CBI official, this LOC was withdrawn in September 2018.
However, in January this year, Sivasankaran was informed that another LOC had been issued against him, when he was scheduled to travel to Italy. In the meanwhile, Sivasankaran has claimed that he has been cooperating with the investigation and attending hearings when summoned, despite being erroneously included as an accused. It is argued,
“… the petitioner has travelled to various countries after the first look out circular was withdrawn by the respondents and has also appeared before the investigating officers regularly, after the removal of the first LOC.
Under these circumstances, the reissue of yet another LOC is not in accordance with law.
It is also argued that the LOC violates Sivasankaran’s diplomatic immunity and therefore liable to be quashed. Further, Sivasankaran has contended that since he has not deliberately evaded arrest, or refused to appear in Court when summoned and since there no likelihood of him leaving the country to evade arrest, the LOC also violates Section 10B of the Passports Act.
Therefore, the Sivasankaran has sought for the Court’s intervention to recall the LOC. As an interim prayer Sivasankaran has also sought for a direction from the High Court to restrain the authorities from interfering with his travel abroad.
Image taken from here.