Clearing the way for cognizance of CBI chargesheet against Amnesty International and its chair Aakar Patel, the government has granted the agency sanction to prosecute the organization. Under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, an association cannot be prosecuted without sanction from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
CBI sources said the sanction was received two days ago and has been submitted in the competent court. “The court can now take cognizamce of the chargesheet and the trial can commence,” a CBI official said.
The development is likely to make CBI’s appeal against relief granted to Patel on the look out circular issued against him stronger. “It will at least now not give Patel’s defense an opportunity to argue that the chargesheet has been filed without sanctions,” an official said.
A CBI court on Friday directed former Amnesty International India chief Aakar Patel not to leave the country without its permission, while staying a Delhi court’s order that had asked the CBI director to apologize to Patel for the LOC. The circular issued by the agency had prevented him from leaving for the US.
The stay was issued by Special Judge Santosh Snehi Mann, a day after the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) asked the CBI to withdraw the LOC. The case was registered against Amnesty International India in 2019 under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. At the time, Patel headed the organization.
The chargesheet was filed by the agency on December 31, 2021 in the Special CBI Court at Rouse Avenue against Patel and Amnesty International India under Section 11 read with Sections 35 and 39 of the Act after a two-year probe into alleged violations, they said. .
The court will take cognizance of charges on April 18, sources said.
Taking to Twitter on Friday, Patel said he would “continue to stand for my rights” and that “there is absolutely no doubt” that he would “win this”.
Patel was supposed to attend an event titled ‘Using sarcasm to mobilize dissent in a nation where facts don’t matter’ at University of Michigan to kick off a series of lectures and interactions across the US.
On Thursday, ACMM Pawan Kumar had asked the CBI director to issue a written apology to Patel for issuing the LOC in order to “hold public trust in the agency” and “heal his wounds”.
The judge had ruled that there was an inherent contradiction in the CBI’s position – while the agency claimed the LOC was issued as Patel was a “flight risk”, it did not arrest him while investigating the case or when the chargesheet was filed.
In October 2018, property in Bengaluru linked to Amnesty India was searched by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a case where Amnesty International India Foundation Trust was accused of trying to dodge FCRA rules.
Amnesty was accused of creating a commercial arm called Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd to receive foreign funding in violation of FCRA rules. The organization had repeatedly denied the allegations.
In November 2019, the CBI filed a case against Amnesty International India Pvt. Ltd (AIIPL), Indians For Amnesty International Trust, Amnesty International India Foundation Trust, Amnesty International South Asia Foundation, and others in the case. It also raided Amnesty premises in the country.