Image credit: Scroll.in, September 26, 2017

This is the sixth blog piece in our series entitled “Those Were the Days”, which is published monthly. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we have enjoyed putting this together.


The need for “rule of law” to prevail is repeatedly espoused by today’s social and political commentators. In light of this, it is important to revisit the origin of the doctrine of “rule of law”, and understand how it originated, so as to fully appreciate its significance and meaning.

In 1676, Sir Mathew Hale, the then Chief Justice of King’s Bench (1671-76), set out 18 tenets for dispensing of justice. The sixth tenet read as follows,

“That I suffer not myself to be possessed with any judgment at all till the whole business of both parties be heard.”

This very sound principle has two fundamental requirements.

The first is that the judge ought not to be predisposed to either one of the adversarial parties, and should not form a view on the merits of the matter before him until all the parties are heard. This of course is very difficult to do given that all persons including judges are bound to have their own views, opinions and preferences. However, through the ages the hallmark of an eminent member of the judiciary is the manner in which he/she overcomes inherent prejudices so as to ensure that the judicial adjudication is based only on the law, the facts based only on evidence on record before the court, and the interplay of the facts in relation to the law.

Continue Reading The Principles of Natural Justice – Origin and Relevance

The Central Government in India had introduced the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (“PMLA”), to prevent the circulation of laundered money. The Act defines money laundering as any process or activity connected to proceeds of crime, including its concealment, possession, acquisition or use and projecting or claiming it as legitimate property. While the PMLA Act allowed for confiscation and seizure of properties obtained from the laundered money, such actions were still subject to the processes of criminal prosecution. This led to many of the persons accused of money laundering, to flee the jurisdiction of Indian courts to avoid criminal prosecution under PMLA and the consequent confiscation of the properties.

On March 12, 2018, the Indian government introduced the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018 (“Bill/Proposed Act”), in the Lok Sabha, after receiving approval from the Cabinet, to address the issue of such economic offenders avoiding criminal prosecution. The Bill defines a ‘fugitive economic offender’ as any individual against whom a warrant for arrest in relation to economic offences, under various statutes, listed in a schedule to the Bill (“Scheduled Offence”) has been issued, on or after the enactment of this Bill, by any Indian court, and who:

  • Has left India to avoid criminal prosecution, or
  • Being abroad refuses to return to India to face criminal prosecution.

Pertinently, in 2015, the definition of proceeds of crime in the PMLA was amended to include property equivalent to proceeds of crime held outside the country.

Continue Reading Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill, 2018

The Supreme Court of India has termed the right to travel beyond the territory of India as a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21[1] of the Constitution of India. This was most famously stated in the case of Menaka Gandhi v Union of India (Supreme Court, 1978), which had confirmed its earlier judgment in Satwant Singh Sawhney v D. Ramarathnam (1967). As a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Indian legislation in this regard is also bound by Article 13, which guarantees people: (1) the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state; and (2) the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.

However, reasonable travel restrictions are constitutionally valid, and are enforced through the provisions of the Passports Act, 1967.[2] Recently, Governmental agencies, police authorities and courts have begun issuing these restrictions through ‘Look out Notices’ or ‘Look out Circulars’ (LOC). These communications are being issued to restrict the departure of persons from India if they are subject to an investigation by the issuing agency for a cognisable offence, or where the accused is evading arrest or the trial, or where the person is a proclaimed offender. Until the Maneka Gandhi case there were no regulatory guidelines for enforcing any travel restrictions, or for issuing LOCs.

The Regulatory History of LOCs

Even though LOCs were first officially recognised in 1979, they have recently been used, frequently, to telling effect. In 1979, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for the first time issued guidelines for issuing LOCs, followed by two more such communications:

  • A letter dated September 5, 1979 (25022/13/78-F.I) (1979 MHA Letter);
  • An office memorandum dated December 27, 2000 (25022/20/98/F.IV) (2000 Memorandum)
  • An office memorandum dated October 27, 2010 (25016/31/2010-Imm) (OM)

Continue Reading Look Out Notices: A Questionable Exercise in Power?