Rejecting her challenge to the trial court’s jurisdiction, the Supreme Court dismissed Ayyub’s petition.
THE Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by journalist Rana Ayyub challenging a Ghaziabad court’s summoning order on a complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), accusing Ayyub of misappropriating funds received for charity.
Rejecting her challenge questioning the jurisdiction of the trial court, a division bench of Justices V. Ramasubramanian and J.B. Pardiwala asked Ayyub to approach the trial court instead. On January 31, the bench had reserved its verdict in the case.
Under Section 3 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA), an offence of money laundering is made out if one is directly or indirectly involved in one or more of the following activities connected with the proceeds of crime: concealment, possession, acquisition, use, projecting as untainted property, and claiming as untainted property.
Earlier today, the bench held that the question as to whether one or more of the above activities have taken place is a question of fact which has to be decided upon based on evidence. “Therefore, we leave it open for this issue to be raised before the trial court”, the court said, dismissing the petition.
Appearing for Ayyub, advocate Vrinda Grover had argued that only a court in Mumbai could have taken cognisance of the complaint filed by the ED as her client is a resident of Mumbai, which is the place where the bank account from which the money was diverted to and where the alleged offence of money laundering took place.
Grover heavily relied upon the decision of the Supreme Court last year in Vijay Madanlal Choudahary versus Union of India, in which it was held that trials regarding the offence of money laundering need to proceed before a special court constituted for the area in which the offence of money laundering has been committed.
Referring to the first information report (FIR) which triggered the ED to launch the investigation, Grover argued that pursuant to the FIR, Ayyub was never called for an investigation, nor has the charge-sheet been filed till now.
Imputing a mala fide intention on the complainant, as well as the ED, Grover noted that the FIR was filed on September 7, 2021, at Indirapuram Police Station in Ghaziabad by one Vikas Sankrityayan, a founder member of the Hindu IT Cell. The group describes itself as a “volunteer group of concerned Hindus to protect Dharma through legal Avenues”.
On November 11, 2021, the zonal office of ED in New Delhi registered the complaint under the PMLA following the FIR into the alleged scheduled offence under the PMLA. On the next day, Sankritayan put out a tweet saying that he had a “fruitful meeting” at the ED office.
Opposing the petition, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta had argued that money laundering is not an independent offence, but is linked to the scheduled offence under PMLA. He submitted that money was received by Ayyub from many parts of Uttar Pradesh, including Ghaziabad. The ED files a complaint where a predicate offence is registered.
Responding to the conduct of the complainant Sankritayan, Mehta said that “he might be a loudmouth”, but the ED goes by the merits of the case. After a “meticulous investigation”, the ED had found that Ayyub misappropriated the money collected through crowd-funding for personal enjoyment, he submitted.
Between April 2020 and June 2021, Ayyub initiated three fundraising campaigns, which were hosted and controlled by Ketto India, an online crowd-funding platform based out of Mumbai, which is where she also resides.
On September 7, 2021, an 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 Sankritayan.
Ayyub is currently a freelance journalist and an opinion columnist with The Washington Post. She has written the book Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up (2016).