Ayyub has argued that since she is a resident of Mumbai, the bank account into which the money was transferred is in Mumbai, and the alleged offence took place in Mumbai, only a Mumbai court could have taken cognisance of the offence.
THE Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its order on a petition filed by journalist Rana Ayyub seeking to challenge a summoning order passed by a Ghaziabad court on a complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), accusing Ayyub of money laundering by using the money she received through crowd funding in the name of charity work for her personal purposes.
A division bench of Justices V. Ramasubramanian and J.B. Pardiwala heard the matter today. Ayyub challenged the summoning order on the ground of lack of jurisdiction on the part of the Ghaziabad court.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the Ghaziabad court to defer trial proceedings against Ayyub to January 31.
Appearing for Ayyub, advocate Vrinda Grover argued that her client is a resident of Mumbai and the bank account where the money was diverted is also in Mumbai; hence, only a court in Mumbai could have taken cognisance of the complaint filed by the ED since the alleged offence of money laundering took place in Mumbai.
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 the 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 has been filed till now.
Grover also argued that the action of the ED was mala fide. The FIR was filed on September 7, 2021, at Police Station Indirapuram in Ghaziabad by one Vikas Sankritayan, a founder member of the Hindu IT Cell, a self-described “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 Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) following the FIR into the alleged scheduled offence under the PMLA. And on the next very 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 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. He sought to submit that the ED files a complaint where a predicate offence is registered.
Responding to the conduct of the complainant Sankritayan, Mehta said he might be a loudmouth, but the ED goes by the merits of the case. And after a meticulous investigation, the ED found that Ayyub used the money collected through crowd funding for personal enjoyment.
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.