The Delhi Court, on Monday, granted permission to journalist Rana Ayyub, who was prevented from leaving the country last week in relation to an alleged money laundering case, to travel abroad. The court also allowed the writ petition filed by Ayyub challenging the Enforcement Directorate’s move.
On March 30, Ayyub was stopped at Mumbai airport just before boarding a flight to London, where she was invited by the Washington-based non-profit organisation, International Centre for Journalists, for an expert discussion on “online violence against women journalists.”
“I had made this announcement public over weeks, yet the ED (Enforcement Directorate) summon very curiously arrived in my inbox after I was stopped,” she wrote in a tweet the same day.
The ED is currently investigating Ayyub for allegedly violating foreign funding rules while collecting donations for Covid-19 relief over the last two years. Earlier, on February 10, the agency froze Rs 1.77 crore belonging to Ayyub based on an FIR registered against her by the Uttar Pradesh police, in September 2021. The complaint was raised by Vikas Sankrityayan, founder of an NGO called “Hindu IT Cell” and a resident of Indirapuram, Ghaziabad, who claimed that Ayyub had diverted large funds collected through the online crowdfunding platform Ketto for relief work.
The police invoked various sections of the IPC, IT Act and Section 4 of Black Money Act, alleging that she illegally acquired money from the public under the guise of charity.
The journalist, however, has stated that “the entire donation received through Ketto is accounted for and not a single paisa has been misused.”
A day after she was stopped at the Mumbai airport, Ayyub had approached the Delhi High Court to challenge the ED’s move.
During the previous hearing on April 1, the court had sought a status report from the ED, which was submitted on Monday. The ED stated in its report that Ayyub was not cooperating in the case and that she was not willing to join the investigation.
At the hearing on Monday, the agency also claimed that even though she had appeared for questioning when summoned, Ayyub had not provided all the documents requested and had also provided fake bills which indicated a case of cheating. Opposing her travel abroad, the ED said that the journalist might flee and never come back to the country.
Ayyub’s counsel, on the other hand, pointed out that she had written to the ED on February 2 expressing her willingness to cooperate in the investigation and had been in constant touch with the agency since. Ayyub’s counsel further stated that all the relevant documents were already with the Mumbai ED.
“The press is the fourth pillar of democracy. I am someone who speaks truth to power. I ask tough questions,” said Ayyub.
The ED has asked Ayyub to send all documents by April 20 while the court has asked to share her itinerary and contact details.