New Delhi, Sep 14: As the BJP and Congress spar with each other following the revelations made by Vijay Mallya on meeting Arun Jaitley, the fact is that the Look out Circular was watered down by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Mallya claimed that he had met with Jaitley, before leaving the country. The Congress has now accused Jaitley of helping Jaitley flee, a charge strongly denied by the Union Finance Minister.
Call it error, mix up or watering down, the fact of the matter is that there was plenty of confusion on the Look Out Circular. While the first LOC issued in 2016 stated that Mallya be detained if he is trying to leave the country, the second only said that the agencies be informed about his travel plans abroad.
On July 29 2017, the CBI had registered a case of cheating and criminal conspiracy against Mallya. The CBI had questioned him twice in connection with the case. CBI officials tell OneIndia that none of the banks had approached them and the FIR was lodged based on 'source information.'
When a look out circular is issued against a person he is not supposed to leave the country without the permission of the investigating agency. In this case, Mallya being a Rajya Sabha member should have sought leave of absence from the House before leaving. This procedure was followed.
As per the records he was present in the Rajya Sabha a day prior to him leaving the country. The big question now is how did all this miss the eye of the CBI or even the immigration department had a copy of the circular.
Twists and turns:
At the time of the incident, officials had blamed the change in LOC on an error. However later on the CBI clarified that the nature of the LOC changed because there was not enough evidence against Mallya. Had the first LOC been in place, then they would have had to arrest Mallya, when he was trying to leave the country. The arrest could not have been justified for want of evidence, CBI officials also said.
Following the incident, the CBI came under immense pressure. It was then found that the nature of the Look out Circular was changed within one month of it being issued. As per the original LOC issued in October, he was to be detained by the airport authorities if was trying to leave the country. However with the changed nature of the LOC it meant that the authorities had to merely provide information about his travel plans.
In a lookout circular issued on 16 October 2015, CBI said if Mallya tries to leave the country, he should be detained at the exit point. In November, the agency asked for a revised circular where it asked the Bureau of Immigration to inform CBI about his departure and travel plans.
Officials had said then that Mallya travelled abroad in October and returned in November. He made two trips in the first and last weeks of December and another in January, besides the recent trip reportedly to London on 2 March.
The LOC depends on the issuing authority and, unless they ask Bureau of Immigration to detain a person or to stop him from boarding a plane, no action is taken.
After the CBI changed the lookout notice, the Bureau of Immigration did not make any attempt to stop him from travelling abroad, and every time he did, the agency was duly informed about it. When asked why CBI did not seek to impound his passport, it was said Mallya had been cooperating in the investigation by presenting himself for questioning, as and when required, and also providing documents sought by the agency. And since Mallya had been cooperating, there was no reason to stop him from travelling abroad, they said.