New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday pulled up the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for seizing the passport of controversial meat exporter Moin Qureshi's wife summoned in connection with a money laundering probe against her husband.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru questioned the authority of the law enforcement agency to impound the passport.
"This is not the way, a body should function," the court said and directed that the officer who had impounded the passport of Qureshi's wife, Nasreen Moin Qureshi, be present before it on the next date.
"I would examine him," the judge said, adding that "prima facie" it was very difficult to accept the ED's submission that the woman had voluntarily handed over her passport to the agency.
Irked by the ED's step, the judge was of the view that the agency should return the woman's passport Wednesday itself and let the ministry concerned and the passport officer take steps in accordance with the law.
The court, however, restrained itself from giving such a direction and asked the ED's officer concerned to remain present before it on the next date of hearing on 2 August.
The court also directed the ED officer to file his personal affidavit within a week from Wednesday.
The direction came on Nasreen's plea, who through her counsel RK Handoo, has sought a direction to the Centre, the ED and the authorities concerned to immediately hand over her original passport impounded by the agency in December 2016.
In her petition, she has also sought to quash and setting aside of the Look Out Circular (LOC) issued by the ED against her.
The woman has urged the court to award her a Rs 10 lakh compensation on the ground of the humiliation and mental and physical agony she had faced due to the ED's action.
The plea said that her fundamental rights have been violated and therefore, action must be taken against the officials of the ED for illegally impounding the passport and issuance of the LOC.
The ED, on the other hand, defended its decision, saying the wealth and life style of Nasreen's husband and his family was disproportionate to the declared sources of income.
The agency also claimed that it was noticed that she and her daughter were incurring expenses on hotel accommodation, purchase of merchandise and other expenses on a very large scale at foreign destinations and the "payments were settled through money transfer by hawala channels".
ED's lawyer, Ajay Digpaul, submitted that the violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) was detected during investigations against the petitioner, her husband and daughter for which investigation was separately initiated under the Act.
"After receipt of intelligence input that the petitioner (Nasreen) might escape from the country, the LOC was issued on 25 October, 2016," the agency said in its reply.
It said that Nasreen was also summoned for questioning in connection with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case against her husband.
"There is every likelihood that Nasreen or any of her family members will try to dispose of their properties at a foreign destination. Hence, the action of the LOC was initiated," it added.
Qureshi, who returned to India in November last year, has been questioned multiple times here by the agency in the money laundering and hawala dealings case.
The agency had asked him to join the probe citing a court-issued directive in this regard.
The Delhi High Court, while hearing a plea filed by Qureshi, had in November last year directed him to return to India by mid-November and appear before the agency for questioning in this case.
The meat exporter is facing probes by ED as well as the I-T department.
Updated Date: Jul 19, 2017 22:31 PM