The Supreme Court will hear, on January 31, Ayyub’s writ petition questioning the jurisdiction of the Ghaziabad court to take cognisance of the PMLA complaint against her.
IN a relief to the journalist Rana Ayyub, the Supreme Court on Wednesday directed a Ghaziabad court to defer trial proceedings against her to January 31. This was because of the courts inability, due to constraints, to hear her writ petition questioning the jurisdiction of the Ghaziabad court in taking cognisance of the complaint against her under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).
A bench comprising Justices Krishna Murari and V. Ramasubramanian directed the listing of Ayyub’s petition on January 31 for hearing.
At the outset, the bench questioned the maintainability of the writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. It suggested that Ayyub approach the high court concerned to challenge the Ghaziabad court’s order.
Appearing for Ayyub, advocate Vrinda Grover submitted that the Ghaziabad court had no jurisdiction and that it had assumed it. She added that her client couldn’t be subjected to the Ghaziabad court’s jurisdiction as the jurisdictional court is in Mumbai.
Grover also referred to a tweet by the Hindu IT cell, a self-described “volunteer group of concerned Hindus to protect Dharma through legal Avenues”, saying that Ayyub should be sent to Ghaziabad court and thereafter “hum dekh lenge” (we will take care). She submitted that the liberty of her client was at stake.
Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, for the Enforcement Directorate (ED), opposed the petition. He argued that crowdfunding is a new device by which money is being collected in the guise of donations for the downtrodden. He submitted that Ayyub should file an anticipatory bail application.
On November 29 last year, the Special Judge, Anti-Corruption, Central Bureau of Investigation Court No. 1, Ghaziabad, took cognisance of a prosecution complaint filed by the ED. The court summoned Ayyub to appear before it on January 27.
Ayyub contended that the alleged offence was committed in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra and the investigation is being conducted by the ED’s Delhi Zonal Office, but the Respondent Agency’s complaint seeking prosecution of the petitioner was filed in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, which has no nexus with either the commission of the offence or its investigation whatsoever, and is contrary to statutory provisions of the PMLA and judicial pronouncements.
Between April 2020 and June 2021, Ayyub initiated three fundraising campaigns, which were hosted and controlled by Ketto India, an online crowdfunding platform based out of Mumbai, which is where she also resides.
On September 7, 2021, a first information report (FIR) was filed against Ayyub at the Indirapuram police station in Ghaziabad under Sections 403 (dishonest misappropriation of property), 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust), 418 (cheating a person whose interest the offender was bound, either by law or by legal contract, to protect) and 420 (cheating and thereby dishonestly inducing delivery of property, or the making, alteration or destruction of a valuable security) of the Indian Penal Code, along with Section 66D (punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and Section 4 of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015, on a complaint filed by one Vikas Sankritayan, the founder member of Hindu IT Cell.
Ayyub has never been summoned for investigation in the said case, and no chargesheet has been filed, despite more than 16 months since registration of the aforesaid FIR.
“That it is relevant to note that the Twitter handle of Hindu IT Cell states that membership to the organisation is contingent on filing complaints/cases for ‘the Hindu cause’. Further, in another tweet, the Hindu IT Cell announces that it has filed five complaints against the Petitioner, and informs that it shall file more complaints”, the petition read.
It further read, “[V]arious tweets of the FIR complainant and his followers say that the FIR complainant is closely associated with the ED investigation against the Petitioner, with the avowed goal of having her arrested and to send her to jail in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. Direct and indirect threats to the life, limb and personal safety of the Petitioner are also made in tweets by the followers of the FIR complainant.“