Person can't be detained merely because of non-cooperation: Bombay HC quashes ED's LOC against man

The said man was not an accused in the case ED was investigating, but the LOC was issued due to non-cooperation, detaining him in India and causing to lose his job.
Last Updated : 14 May 2024, 12:29 IST
Last Updated : 14 May 2024, 12:29 IST

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Mumbai: A person cannot be detained merely because he is allegedly not cooperating, the Bombay High Court said quashing a Look Out Circular (LOC) issued against a man by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a 2019 money laundering case related to late drug smuggler Iqbal Memon alias Iqbal Mirchi.

The man - Sanjay Kumar Agrawal - had filed a petition in the high court challenging the LOC issued against him by the ED in January 2021. Agrawal said he has been working in Bahrain and Dubai since 1995 and now because of the LOC, he was detained in India without a job.

Agrawal was summoned by the ED in 2020 for questioning. He claimed that he has not even been arraigned as an accused in the case.

A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and Manjusha Deshpande in its judgment of April 17, a copy of which was made available on Tuesday, said the ED has been investigating the case since 2019 and till date, despite Agrawal having appeared before the agency, it has not found any material against him.

Hence, it would not be appropriate to detain him any further, the HC said.

"The petitioner (Agrawal) has been deprived of his livelihood since December 2020. He has been working in the Middle East for more than two decades," the bench said.

The ED had opposed Agrawal's plea claiming that while he had not been named as an accused in the case, he was not cooperating with the probe.

The bench, however, said it cannot accept this submission.

"A person cannot be detained merely because he is not co-operating. Non-cooperation also can be a result of a person not having any information with respect to the case in question," the HC said.

As per the plea, Agrawal has been working in Bahrain since 1995 and in 2012 joined the Imperial Suites Hotel (allegedly owned by Mirchi) as a Group Financial Controller. He claimed that he was not aware who the owner of the said hotel was, but used to receive instructions from one Asif Memon and Junaid Memon (Mirchi's sons).

Agrawal claimed that he had no knowledge about the personal dealings of Iqbal Memon alias Mirchi or any of his family members and that he has never met or spoken with Mirchi.

In August 2019, the ED launched a probe into the financial assets and dealings of Mirchi under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Mirchi died in London in 2013.

In July 2020, Agrawal received summons from the ED pursuant to which he appeared before the agency for questioning seven times. In January 2021, at the behest of the ED, an LOC was issued against Agrawal.

Agrawal claimed that due to the LOC, he is unable to return to Bahrain and Dubai and has lost his job.

ED's advocate Shriram Shirsat informed the court that Agrawal is not an accused in the case and that till date no material is collected to show his complicity in the case.

Shirsat, however, claimed that Agrawal was not cooperating with the probe.

The court quashed the LOC and directed Agrawal to appear before the ED as and when summoned and to also provide the agency his residential and contact details.

Published 14 May 2024, 12:29 IST

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